May 01, 2013

Giving Back: A Pro Bono Story

Michael G. Bergmann

I’m sure you’ve heard the story before: Lawyers are the only ones who can provide pro bono legal services, and the need has never been greater. Funding for legal aid is nowhere near sufficient to meet the need. Funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is continually under attack, and current funding levels are $119.9 million less than the 1976 funding levels (the year in which LSC was established) when adjusted for inflation. Even with the generous and critical support of bar foundations, law firms, corporate legal departments, and individuals across the country, many legal aid programs still do not have sufficient resources to meet the need. There are nowhere near enough legal aid programs or staff to handle the client demand. An August 2012 study from the LSC showed that legal service agencies expect to have to cut 8 percent of their staff owing to funding reductions, resulting in nearly 750 fewer legal aid staff across the country.

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