Pro Bono Celebration Week in Retrospect

Vol. 38 No. 3


Andrew J. Hoag is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Los Angeles office of Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Pro bono publico. Translation: “for the public good.” Definition: “Being or involving uncompensated legal services performed esp. for the public good.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1323 (9th ed. 2009).

For the past few years, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has designated the last week of October as National Pro Bono Celebration Week. According to ABA President James R. Silkenat, the Celebration is a “national effort to meet the ever increasing [legal] needs of our most vulnerable citizens.” Indeed, the week showcases thousands of lawyers performing legal services without compensation—for the public good.

In the past four years, the Celebration has included more than 2,000 official events in 48 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Indeed, over the years, the Celebration has grown to the point where it now is much more than a week, literally and figuratively.

Countless types of events comprise the celebration: award ceremonies, clinics, continuing legal education programming, fundraisers, media outreach, new initiative kickoffs, planning sessions, public proclamations from public leaders, recruitment events, seminars, and social events. This year, the Celebration officially took place October 20–26. The Celebration’s goals were fourfold: (1) to recruit more pro bono volunteers to increase legal services to poor and vulnerable persons, (2) to mobilize community support for pro bono, (3) to foster collaborative relationships, and (4) to recognize the pro bono efforts of America’s lawyers.

Recruiting Volunteers and Increasing Services to Poor and Vulnerable Persons

In light of Major League Baseball’s Fall Classic in October, Public Counsel of Los Angeles (“the nation’s largest pro bono law firm”) launched “Pro Bono Pitch,” to encourage attorneys to take on a pro bono matter before the end of the calendar year. Through December 15, 2013, attorneys signing up for a pro bono clinic or taking on a pro bono case are added to Public Counsel’s Home Run Roster (displayed on Public Counsel’s “Wall of Fame”). As an added incentive, volunteers are entered into a raffle for tickets to see the 2013 National League West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mobilizing Community Support

In North Dakota, the State Bar Association of North Dakota kicked off “Celebrate Pro Bono North Dakota” with a unique five-day program designed to get attorneys to engage in five different pro bono activities, one on each day of the official Celebration week. On day one, attorneys were encouraged to sign up for the statewide Volunteer Lawyer Program. On day two, attorneys were encouraged to learn about Legal Services of North Dakota. Day three was “Give a High Five to a Pro Bono Lawyer.” Day four encouraged lawyers to give back financially during “Write a Check to the North Dakota Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Fund.” And day five brought an announcement of the “New Justice for All Lawyers Program.” The unique five-day program mobilized attorneys to support pro bono activities in various ways and encouraged lawyers to stay involved beyond one-off activities.

Fostering Collaborative Relationships

Funneling the fiscal power of private enterprise and statewide consumerism, the Alabama State Bar Pro Bono Task Force, in collaboration with national bookseller Books-A-Million, held an event to raise funds for Alabama Volunteer Lawyer Programs. Ten percent of every purchase at Books-A-Million’s Alabama locations on October 26, 2013, was donated to support the work of the numerous local Alabamian Volunteer Lawyer Programs, which provide free legal services to low-income Alabamians in need of civil legal assistance.

Recognizing Pro Bono Efforts

In Illinois, the Lake County Bar Association Community Outreach Committee and Prairie State Legal Services teamed up for their annual Pro Bono Services Awards in honor of a community of volunteers by highlighting a few talented individuals. Every year, the ceremony awards the Wayne B. Flanigan Award to an LCBA member in recognition of his or her extraordinary contributions supporting the delivery of free legal services to indigent members of the Lake County community in the spirit of the awards’ namesake Wayne Flanigan. This year, Bartlett James (“B.J.”) Carroll, Jr., received the award. The ceremony also recognizes a few lawyers for exemplary support in providing legal services to indigent residents of Lake County through Prairie State Legal Services. This year the recipients were Robert O. Ackley, William Y. Franks, and Stephen J. Rice.

Participating in the Celebration is truly its own reward. For those who missed out on the official Celebration week, opportunities to provide uncompensated legal services for the public good are not available simply one week a year in late October. Opportunities to provide legal services for the public good occur daily. Local bar associations, legal aid societies, volunteer attorney programs, and the ABA are great sources of information for pro bono opportunities.

For more information about the National Celebration of Pro Bono Week and to start planning the Celebration for 2014, visit


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