January 01, 2012

A Review of Pro Bono and Public Service Work by Solos and Small Firms

Kathleen J. Hopkins

Solos and small firm lawyers generously donate their time, talent, and experience, providing their expertise for little or no charge to their communities and to those who cannot afford legal representation. But just what is the scope of this commitment, and what trends can be seen in their service? In 2004 and 2008, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service conducted comprehensive studies of the legal profession’s provision of pro bono legal services to address the unmet needs of the poor. In 2007 and 2011 the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division (GPSolo), with assistance from the Standing Committee’s Center for Pro Bono, conducted informal, experiential surveys of Division members’ pro bono and public service efforts. These surveys confirm what many of us already knew: Solos and small firm lawyers do not just talk the talk; they walk the walk. Consistently, through their actions, solos and small firm lawyers exemplify our profession’s strong, sustained commitments to ensure equal access to justice and to a just community. Indeed, the majority of solos and small firm lawyers provide pro bono and public service in their communities, even without the support system and project infrastructure available to many of their large firm counterparts.

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