When attorney Eden Mays volunteered with Legal Aid of Western Ohio during her final semester of law school, the experience affirmed her decision to pursue the law.
“Not only did it allow me valuable practical experience as a student and exposure to legal issues I hadn’t dealt with previously, but it also opened my eyes to the importance of legal aid services and renewed my belief in the importance of the profession,” she said.
Many Ohio attorneys describe similar transformative pro bono experiences, interactions that encouraged them to make pro bono service a regular part of their careers.
Zach Eddy, a frequent volunteer with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus’ Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), connected with the program when he first volunteered as a summer associate in 2015.
“I learned that my training as a lawyer could positively affect the life of the tenant-client in a way I had not realized,” Eddy said. “You can be an advocate that makes a difference immediately at TAP, and that is an amazing feeling.”
This March, Ohio attorneys are asked to report their pro bono service and financial contributions to charitable legal organizations by completing the annual pro bono reporting survey, a joint project of the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. The survey, now entering its second decade, is currently open to all Ohio attorneys and will take less than 10 minutes to complete.
Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor encourages attorneys to complete the survey by April 5.
“While considering your place in the pro bono arena, please fill out the survey,” she said in a video to all Ohio attorneys. “It will take you less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee.”
While the survey is voluntary, the information is valuable in that it helps identify areas of legal need and helps to determine how resources can be better allocated to help Ohioans in need of legal assistance.
Will Herzberger, partner and pro bono coordinator at Jones Day in Cleveland, sees particular interest in pro bono and community service among younger attorneys.
“Millennials are engaged in the community and want to serve,” Herzberger said. “When I get a referral from an organization and send it to the young lawyers in the office, I immediately get volunteers. They really want to give back to the community.”
The pro bono reporting survey serves as a timely reminder to all attorneys of the value of pro bono service.
“When you have a large segment of society that’s denied access to the legal system, because they don’t have money, I think that has an effect on our overall judicial system and our democracy,” said emeritus attorney and Community Legal Aid volunteer Michael Sermersheim. “It should be seen as a responsibility of those who are admitted to practice law to help those who are less fortunate.”
Questions about pro bono reporting? Contact Sophia Chang at 614.715.8568 or firstname.lastname@example.org.