Model Pro Bono Policy Statement

Sample Statement — Lincoln & Douglas Pro Bono Policy

The law firm of Lincoln & Douglas encourages its lawyers to render public interest legal service. The lawyers in the firm are engaged in a wide variety of such endeavors, including [list current efforts].1

The firm's support of public interest legal service is based first and foremost on the duty of lawyers, as professionals, to contribute to the welfare of the community. In a society governed under the rule of law, lawyers have an obligation to make sure the legal system works, especially for the disadvantaged.

The firm also supports public interest legal service because it provides valuable experience for the younger lawyers in the firm and because it gets lawyers of all ages actively involved in the community.

An associate's involvement in pro bono activities is an important factor in the partnership's ongoing evaluation of the associate. A willingness to serve, and become involved with, the community evidences a level of maturity and professionalism which is highly prized by the firm.

ALT. 1: For evaluation purposes, each lawyer in the firm is given billable hour credit for time spent on pro bono matters up to 50 hours per year.

ALT. 2: All time spent on pro bono matters is treated in the same manner as billable hours for purposes of evaluating lawyers.

ALT. 3: The firm encourages each of its lawyers to have one pro bono matter on his or her active docket at all times.

ALT. 4: Although there is no strict formula by which a lawyer is given credit for pro bono work, the firm recognizes that participation in pro bono activities decreases a lawyer's time on billable matters.2

The term Philadelphia lawyer means a lawyer who is an expert at his or her profession, and who believes that all citizens are entitled to the protection of their rights under the law. The firm of Lincoln & Douglas believes that it is the duty of every lawyer to make a part of his or her practice the provision of legal service to the poor, thereby promoting the growth of justice within our community.


Notes

  1. This sentence can be used to highlight any past or present accomplishments of the firm in the area of public interest legal service. If the firm has not been active in such activities to date, the sentence can be omitted.

  2. There are many approaches to the question of giving credit for pro bono work in the firm's evaluation of lawyers. Associates in particular are concerned with this issue.

    The most important factor in overcoming this evaluation anxiety is for the firm (especially the senior lawyers in the firm) to truly support pro bono work and to acknowledge and encourage lawyers who become involved. Some ways in which this encouragement can be manifest are set forth in the attached procedures memorandum. A preliminary question, however, is whether the firm will give formulaic credit for pro bono work. Some firms give hour-for-hour billable credit for pro bono work. Other firms give billable hour credit up to a specific number of hours. Still others generally encourage pro bono without any formulas. Another approach is for the firm to encourage each of its lawyers to handle one active pro bono matter at a time.

    In August 1988, the American Bar Association passed a resolution urging all of its members to contribute 50 hours each year to the delivery of legal services to the poor, either by providing such service, or by making an equivalent financial contribution. In September 1990, the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania began its new Public Service Program, which requires every student, as a condition for graduation, to spend 35 hours in each of their second and third years in some public service program. In December 1990, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Task Force for Legal Services To The Needy released the report of its intensive eighteen-month investigation of the unmet legal needs of the poor, and recommended that all lawyers devote a minimum of 15-25 hours each year to the delivery of legal services to the poor through their local pro bono programs, in addition to making financial contributions to their local legal services and/or pro bono programs. In April 1991, the Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association passed a resolution calling upon all firms to adopt a written pro bono policy encouraging each attorney to maintain one active pro bono matter on his or her active docket at all times.

    The Philadelphia Bar Association urges all lawyers to adopt as their personal goal the ABA's standard of fifty hours of pro bono service each year and urges all firms to adopt Alternative 1. In doing so, however, it recognizes that firms will have different approaches to how they should honor their ethical obligation to render public interest service under Rule 6.1 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. For that reason, the Model Policy contains several alternatives. Each policy has its own merit; all have the same purpose: to encourage each attorney to take seriously and satisfy our profession's ethical responsibility to ensure that equal justice under law means what it says, for all people, regardless of their ability to pay a lawyer. The Philadelphia Bar Association recognizes that the law firms will have the critical role to play in ensuring that this ethical responsibility is recognized, accepted, and satisfied by each of their attorneys.