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The Colorado Supreme Court has a great program for encouraging pro bono work. It asks law firms, solo practitioners, and in-house counsel or government groups to commit to the annual goal of 50 hours of pro bono legal services by their Colorado-licensed attorneys, averaged across the firm and pro-rated for part-time attorneys.
Today, the Lyda Law Firm LLC informed the Colorado Supreme Court of its commitment to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono service per calendar year. Although the Lyda Law Firm has just recently been established, it has committed to completing the full annual amount of service by the end of 2014.
The pro bono program is intended for persons of limited means and/or organizations serving persons of limited means. Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct 6.1 defines these organizations as "charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means." While the program used to require services to "indigent persons," the language has no been changed to "persons of limited means," perhaps as a recognition of the fact that even persons who would not qualify as "indigent" often suffer from a lack of access to justice.
Increased pro bono participation should always be a goal of our profession. A recent report published by the American Bar Association analyzed some of the factors that encourage or dissuade lawyers from devoting time to pro bono services. One significant factor was whether the pro bono opportunities simply presented themselves to attorneys. Attorneys were much more likely to participate in pro bono when they were actually contacted about doing so. The report continued, "In terms of barriers to pro bono participation, attorneys overwhelmingly mentioned time constraints as the top factor discouraging them from providing more pro bono service . . . . This was especially a factor for corporate attorneys." Additionally, lawyers who provided at least 50 hours of pro bono were significantly more likely to report that their employer encouraged pro bono activities (64 percent). The report also noted that very few attorneys reported a lack of interest in pro bono work, regardless of whether they actually participated in pro bono activities. Finally, the report showed that female attorneys perform significantly more pro bono work than male attorneys.
The term "pro bono" comes from the Latin pro bono publico, which means "for the public good." The Colorado Supreme Court's pro bono commitment program certainly serves the public good by encouraging local attorneys to buck the inertia of daily life and time commitments in order to be of service to the community. Kudos to the Colorado Supreme Court and Justice Hobbs for the continued success of this pro bono program.
I am excited to participate in the Colorado Supreme Court's pro bono program. Pro bono service will always be one of this firm's foundational values.
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