Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.
North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 6.1 “Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service”
The goal for each North Carolina lawyer to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year constitutes one of our most important responsibilities as members of the Bar. Although most of us probably envision pro bono service as representation of an individual of limited financial means in a matter involving some form of court proceeding, Rule 6.1 actually covers a much broader range of pro bono activities. Also included within the scope of the Rule are:
representation of non-profit and governmental organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means;
representation of individuals or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, or non-profit and governmental organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s economic resources;
participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession, such as serving on bar association committees, serving on boards of pro bono or legal services organizations, taking part in Law Day activities, acting as a CLE instructor, mediator, or arbitrator, providing free training or mentoring to those who represent persons of limited means, and engaging in legislative lobbying and administrative rule making;
acceptance of court appointments in which the fee is substantially below a lawyer’s usual rate; and
voluntary contribution of financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.
The Greensboro Bar Association has an impressive track record with regard to pro bono service. Our members donate very generously every year to the Legal Aid Fundraiser, and this year’s event was no exception. At this month’s member meeting on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at 12:30 p.m. in the Empire Room, we will induct into the Herb Falk Society members of the GBA who have provided at least 75 hours of pro bono service in the past year.
Yet, despite the generosity of our members, many critical legal needs remain unmet. In that regard, I have invited Sylvia Novinsky, Director of the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, to be our featured speaker at this month’s member meeting. The North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission launched the Pro Bono Resource Center in April of 2016, and it remains one of only a handful of statewide pro bono resource centers in the country. The Center’s website, www.ncprobono.org, highlights over 30 different opportunities for lawyers to take on pro bono service, ranging from assisting victims of domestic violence and human trafficking to providing free legal services related to starting or expanding a business or completing a patent application to low-wealth entrepreneurs and inventors.
Appearing with Ms. Novinsky will be Lauren Jeffries, Executive Financial Director of Gate City Legal Services, Inc. Gate City Legal Services is a brand new non-profit legal services organization dedicated to providing low-cost representation in criminal, family, immigration, estates, landlord-tenant, and consumer law matters to individuals whose income falls in a range too high to qualify for Legal Aid and Public Defender services but too low to afford standard legal fees.
I hope to see many of you at this meeting, and encourage you to stand on that podium a year from now to be inducted into the Herb Falk Society.