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ABA Pro bono publico awards

Award Nomination Criteria

The nomination period for the Pro Bono Publico Award will open January 25 through February 28, 2023.

Nominees for the Pro Bono Publico Awards must meet criteria set forth by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The Committee is currently accepting nominations from the following two categories:

 Individual attorneys who do not obtain their income delivering legal services to persons of limited means are eligible. (Compensated pro bono coordinators are not eligible.)

 Small and large law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments, law schools and other institutions in the legal profession whose members have collectively made an outstanding contribution toward one or more of the criteria are eligible.

The Committee welcomes nominees from every race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, ability, family status and socioeconomic status in our effort to recognize the accomplishments of richly varied perspectives. The Committee also encourages the nominations of attorneys who are newer to the practice of law to publicize their accomplishments and to inspire others to commit to pro bono participation.

International pro bono work is eligible for nomination, but domestic pro bono work is given priority by the Committee. No more than five awardees will be selected from those who have excelled consistent with the criteria set forth in the nomination application requirements.

Although many groups (e.g., bar associations, legal aid programs and volunteer lawyer projects) and individuals do not meet the criteria for the Pro Bono Publico Award they may be eligible for many other ABA awards.

Questions may be directed to staff at  [email protected]

Nomination Requirements

1) Nomination Form

The Individual or Organization form must be submitted for both new nominations and for repeat nominations.

2) Individual Nominee's Resume

For nominations of individuals, include the nominee's resume or biography, describing his or her background and contributions to the pro bono legal services delivery system.

3) Award Criteria Narrative

In no more than five single-spaced pages, provide specific, concrete examples of the individual or organization nominee’s performance of as many of the following criteria as are relevant. The pro bono services that were performed must meet the definition of pro bono services set forth in Model Rule 6.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  Note that we are interested to receive nominations of individuals at all stages in their careers, including both senior and mid-career professionals, and “rising stars” in the first ten years of practice. 

 Criteria that will be considered include:

  • dedication to the development and delivery of legal services to persons of limited means or low-income communities through a pro bono program;
  • significant work toward developing innovative approaches to delivery of volunteer legal services;
  • participation in an activity that resulted in satisfying previously unmet needs or in extending services to underserved segments of the population;
  • successful advocacy of pro bono cases that favorably affected the provision of other services to persons of limited means or low-income communities; 
  • successful work towards legislation that contributed substantially to legal services to persons of limited means or low-income communities; 
  • exemplary service by emerging pro bono leaders who have shown outstanding accomplishments and achievements that have positively impacted the delivery of pro bono legal services.

To the extent appropriate, include in the award criteria narrative a description of any bar association activities applicable to the above criteria.

4)  Articles/Letters

You may submit up to five news articles written by or about the candidate and no more than five letters of support from individuals or organizations. Articles can be submitted via live URL links or PDF files.

5) Emailing Materials

First, complete the appropriate online nomination form, then submit all supporting materials via email, including the nominator and nominee's names in the subject line.

Additional Information

The nomination form and supporting materials constitute the sole basis for the nomination.

The limitation on articles and letters of support will be observed. If more than five articles or five letters of support are submitted, the Committee staff will determine which will be included with the final nomination packet to be reviewed by Committee members.

Current members or liaisons of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service are not eligible for the Award for the duration of their terms and for one year following service.

Repeat Nominations

If you have nominated someone previously and want to nominate them again for consideration in a subsequent year, please submit (1) the online nomination form and (2) updated material (at minimum: a current resume for individuals, and an updated award criteria narrative).

Deadlines & Timeline

The nomination period for the Pro Bono Publico award is January 25 through February 28, 2023.

The Committee will select award recipients. All nominators will be notified about the status of the nomination as soon as possible after selections are made.

The 2023 award will be presented during the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2023..