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October 09, 2020 Lawyers Conference

LC Chair's Column

Celebrating pro bono in a pandemic

By Monica A. Fennell, Indianapolis, IN

We are embarking on a bar year like no other, and we are all responding to the pandemic in our personal and professional lives. Before I move on to urgent access to justice topics, I want to pause to thank outgoing Lawyers Conference Chair Carolyn Dubay for her grace under pressure in these challenging times. The accompanying Zoom screenshot shows our recognition of Carolyn’s work and shows our continual effort to engage with each other and with what we love about the profession, even when we can’t see each other in person at an ABA Annual Meeting.

During the 20 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting, the Lawyers Conference recognized outgoing Chair Carolyn Dubay’s grace under pressure in a challenging year.

During the 20 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting, the Lawyers Conference recognized outgoing Chair Carolyn Dubay’s grace under pressure in a challenging year.

When lawyers go above and beyond and volunteer their legal skills to help those in need in these challenging times, it’s important to honor and encourage those pro bono efforts. The ABA’s National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, brings attention to narrowing the justice gap and offers an opportunity to recognize the legal profession's pro bono contributions. Please check out the blog post by the Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, David Bienvenu, highlighting the importance of celebrating pro bono during the pandemic.

This year, under the leadership of ABA President Patricia Lee Refo, the ABA focuses its pro bono efforts on pro bono programs and attorneys across the country who are working hard to address the many legal needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps not surprisingly the theme of Pro Bono Week is “Rising to Meet the Challenge: Pro Bono Response to COVID-19.” We hope you will join the ABA in showcasing the incredible difference that pro bono lawyers make to our nation, to our system of justice, to our communities, and most of all, to the clients they serve. For ideas and resources, please check out the Pro Bono Week resources at the Pro Bono Resource page on the ABA website.

Judges and lawyers can get involved this Pro Bono Week by contacting their local bar association’s pro bono program, local legal aid organizations, law firm pro bono managers or even the local court self-help center. Judges may "encourage lawyers to provide pro bono legal services." ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 3.7. Guidance, program, and promotional tools for judges and courts are available at the Judicial Letters Toolkit and Resources page, including talking points for pro bono presentations and links to online resources. Judges can recognize contributions by pro bono attorneys and attend award ceremonies, help with training for local legal services agencies, and expedite pro bono lawyer calendaring. Courts also can set an example for the bar by encouraging their own attorney employees to do pro bono work (Court Employee Pro Bono Rules), and by creating programs within the courts (Court-Based Pro Bono Programs).

Activities involving all aspects of pro bono are welcome and encouraged. And you can highlight your community’s efforts by adding events to the national registry. I look forward to celebrating with you in October!

Ms. Monica Fennell

Ms. Monica Fennell

2020-2021 Lawyers Conference Chair