Attorneys Asked to Report Pro Bono Efforts

The Supreme Court of Ohio will once again ask attorneys to voluntarily report their pro bono activities. The program, which documented attorneys’ pro bono work for the first time in 2008, is designed to gather meaningful information about the extent and nature of pro bono work in Ohio and encourage pro bono activity to aid those in need of free legal services.

Attorneys are encouraged to begin collecting records of any pro bono work undertaken in 2009, including financial contributions to a legal services organization, for reporting early in 2010. Attorneys responding to the first request to report, sent in early 2009, reported more than 123,000 hours of pro bono work and about $700,000 in contributions for calendar year 2008.

Under the Justice in Action program, a joint project of the Supreme Court and the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), Ohio attorneys will be asked in January to voluntarily and anonymously report their pro bono activities and financial support for legal aid programs for 2009. The information will be used to identify gaps in the delivery of legal services in order to strengthen the network of services available to Ohioans in need.

In early 2010, an e-mail will be sent to all Ohio attorneys registered as ‘active’ who have provided e-mail addresses to the Court’s Office of Attorney Services. Attorneys will be asked to report their pro bono activity during the preceding calendar year by clicking a link to complete a brief questionnaire. Attorneys will also notice a clarification to the 2009 questionnaire that will allow law firm equity partners to report a pro rata share of law firm contributions to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

All information voluntarily submitted will be collected without identifiers, so the results will remain anonymous.

In September 2007, the Supreme Court issued its “Statement Regarding the Provision of Pro Bono Legal Services by Ohio Lawyers,” urging them to “engage in new or additional pro bono opportunities.” In addition, the Court announced its intention to document the efforts of the legal profession to ensure equal access to justice by working with OLAF.

As outlined in the Court’s statement, ‘pro bono activity’ is defined as:

  • Making a financial contribution to an organization that provides legal services to persons of limited means.
  • Providing legal services to charitable organizations that are unable to afford legal services.
  • Providing legal services to persons of limited means who cannot afford such assistance.

On an annual basis, OLAF will compile and report the information collected to the Court, bar associations and legal services organizations throughout Ohio.