*From the Supreme Court of Ohio*
A higher percentage of reporting Ohio attorneys performed pro bono work in 2009 than those who reported for 2008, according to the second annual results of pro bono activities statewide.
The Supreme Court of Ohio, working in conjunction with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), asked lawyers in January to voluntarily and anonymously report their pro bono activities and financial support for legal aid programs in 2009. The program, referred to as “Justice in Action,” provides information used to identify gaps in the delivery of legal services and to strengthen the network of services available to Ohioans in need.
Seven percent of the state’s 35,000 attorneys on “active” status who received an electronic invitation to participate in the process reported information. About 66 percent of those who responded to the invitation reported pro bono work last year totaling more than 96,000 hours, which equaled an average of about 56.6 hours per attorney. About 61 percent of reporting attorneys performed pro bono work in 2008.
Using an average hourly rate of $135, Ohio attorneys who chose to report their pro bono service for 2009 provided more than $13 million in legal services to low-income Ohioans. The most common areas where attorneys offered their legal expertise for free included family law matters, wills and probate, and foreclosure issues.
Ohio lawyers supplemented their delivery of more than $13 million in direct legal services to the poor by making financial contributions of $250,000 to organizations that provide legal services to low-income Ohioans. The average contribution was $464 per attorney in calendar year 2009.
“Ohio’s attorneys continue to volunteer their time and efforts to meet the needs of Ohioans who cannot afford access to civil legal services,” said Steven C. Hollon, Supreme Court administrative director. “The Supreme Court will maintain its efforts to increase pro bono participation and provide access to justice for all.”
“Voluntary reporting is an important tool used by the legal aid delivery system to direct resources to areas of identified need,” said Jane Taylor, OLAF Associate Director for Pro Bono. “OLAF is grateful to those attorneys who reported their activities, and because it will help us to better serve Ohio’s low-income residents, we encourage the many, many lawyers whom we know perform pro bono work to report it, voluntarily and anonymously, each January.”
Improvements made to the 2009 reporting program more reliably reflect pro bono legal services in the state because fewer responses contained information about pro bono work outside the state.
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.