Members of the North Carolina access to justice community are putting the focus on pro bono as part of the National Pro Bono Week Celebration. The annual celebration has been celebrated in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s National Celebration of Pro Bono: Moving Forward in a Post-Pandemic World (this year’s theme) and is held from October 25th through October 31st, 2021. The National Pro Bono Celebration focuses the nation’s attention on increased need for pro bono services and celebrates the outstanding work of lawyers who volunteer their services throughout the year.
During Pro Bono Week, North Carolina legal aid programs, bar associations, law firms, law schools, and others will celebrate pro bono by recognizing volunteers, offering training, providing pro bono legal services at clinics, hosting events to raise money for legal aid, and raising awareness of the need for pro bono. For more information about events in your area, visit http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono.
The NC Equal Access to Justice Commission was established in November 2005 by order of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The mission of the Commission is to expand access to civil legal representation for people of low income and modest means across North Carolina. In pursuit of this mission, the Commission established the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center in 2016 to provide resources for attorneys and for the community to share areas of legal services needs throughout North Carolina.
Why Pro Bono Work?
The overall access to justice gap in the United States, per 2017 statistics, is roughly 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans who received inadequate or no legal help.
There is only one legal aid attorney for every 8,000 low-income people in North Carolina. There is one private attorney for every 367 North Carolinians. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts records provided that more than 1.7 million civil legal cases (or 340,761 per year) were litigated from 2015 through 2019 (PDF). Additionally, in 2018, there were more than 2 million North Carolinians who were eligible for services of legal aid. While at least 71% of low-income families will experience one civil legal problem per year and of those civil legal needs, 86% of those will go unmet due to limited resources for civil legal aid providers.
Who can Perform Pro Bono Work?
In 2010, the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct adopted Rule 6.1, which states that “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least fifty (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.”
The North Carolina State Bar also offers Pro Bono Practice status to inactive and out-of-state lawyers to complete pro bono legal assistance through a nonprofit legal services corporation.