The 2024 Pro Bono Summit brought together leaders and pro bono advocates from around the state to brainstorm ideas to amplify and grow pro bono service. More than 50 professionals gathered at the Grand Event Center in Columbus for the event, hosted by the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, to listen and engage with one another on developing new pro bono initiatives.

Keynote speaker Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy offered words of encouragement during an address that highlighted the good work volunteer attorneys do around the state. She commended attorneys who stepped up during the Great Recession, the pandemic, and the recent tornado disasters to help Ohioans get back on their feet.

“The generosity of the legal community is a story worth telling over and over again,” she said.

Diane Menashe, partner at The Menashe Law Group, encouraged the group to focus on using the business case for pro bono to engage firm volunteers. Rather than selling pro bono as a way to give back, Menashe proposed emphasizing how pro bono service creates opportunities for young attorneys to network, build face-to-face connections, and develop new legal skills.

“Think about what other community players you can engage,” Menashe said. “The more people junior lawyers can meet outside of their firm, the better.”

The second half of the Summit divided attendees into small groups to use legal design thinking to engage in creative problem solving. Working in groups of eight, Summit participants used example attorney personas to brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas for engaging different types of potential volunteers in pro bono service.

The legal design method has a history of success. At the 2017 Pro Bono Summit, participants conceptualized the Ohio Justice Bus, which pairs volunteer attorneys and Ohioans with legal challenges. The Bus traveled nearly 20,000 miles, held 100 legal clinics, and served more than 600 Ohioans in 2023 alone.

Chief Justice Kennedy applauded the Summit’s ability to generate new and innovative pro bono projects.

“It is my greatest hope the Summit will be an incubator of ways to help our fellow Ohioans today, tomorrow, and in the future,” she said.

Ohio attorneys can visit the Foundation’s Pro Bono Opportunities Guide to find nonprofit organizations seeking volunteers.