Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional work load, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer. Neb. Ct. R. § 3-506.1 cmt. 1.
2018 CALL TO ACTION FOR MEMBER SUPPORT OF PRO BONO SERVICES
Nebraska lawyers have a special responsibility to provide pro bono legal services. However, as legal employers in recent years have had to adapt to an ever more competitive legal market, lawyers’ opportunities to do pro bono work and public service have diminished. Lawyers today grapple with a difficult dilemma that previous generations of lawyers were spared: how to meet the demands of modern law practice and still fulfill their idealism and professional responsibility to give back to their communities.
Law firms, corporate law departments, government offices and other legal employers know that the answer to this question is crucial to the profession’s future and the well-being of society. Lawyers now are needing more balance in their work to improve job satisfaction and hone important skills, and the poor in our country are suffering without adequate access to legal services. Pro bono service can help address both problems.
One in eight Nebraskans lives near or below the poverty income level. In our role as public citizens, we are called to be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Nebraska has a strong infrastructure of civil legal service providers and pro bono programs, but they cannot and should not be facing this problem alone. Personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer.
We cannot achieve any real progress operating in silos. We cannot work on these issues independently. Upholding the promise of equal access is a long-term commitment that requires action from all sectors of the legal community: law schools, bar associations, the courts, firms and other legal employers. Pro bono lawyers are necessary to bridge the widening gap between the legal needs of those who cannot afford legal services and the resources available to meet the needs.
I am asking all members of the Nebraska State Bar to renew a commitment to access to justice through pro bono service. The Rules of Professional Conduct remind us that “every lawyer, regardless or professional prominence or professional workload has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.” The American Bar Association urges all lawyers to provide a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono service annually.
The opportunities to do pro bono abound. I hope you will join me in committing to that goal. I am enclosing a pro bono pledge for law firms and lawyers. The NSBA will proudly recognize those that take the pledge on the NSBA website, its social media and The Nebraska Lawyer magazine.