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American Bar Association

The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Center for Pro Bono

Mission and Activities


The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is the ABA's center of activity for the development and promotion of pro bono policies and initiatives. The mission of the Committee includes fostering the development of pro bono programs and activities by law firms, bar associations, corporate legal departments, law schools, government attorney offices and others; analyzing the scope and function of pro bono programs; and proposing and reviewing legislation that affects lawyers' ability to provide pro bono legal services.

Committee Activities

The Committee has been actively involved in the policy arena. Among its initiatives are ABA Model Rule 6.1 (adopted 1983, revised 1993) and the 1995 House Resolution urging bar associations to make the expansion of pro bono legal services a critical priority for the bar. In 1996, the Committee drafted and published Standards for Programs Providing Civil Pro Bono Legal Services to Persons of Limited Means. In 1999, the Committee published State Pro Bono Reporting: A Guide for Bar Leaders and Others Considering Strategies for Expanding Pro Bono, designed to assist in the planning and building of successful state legal services delivery systems. The Committee was also instrumental in the 1997 adoption of Conference of Chief Justices' Resolution VII, Encouraging Pro Bono Services in Civil Matters. In addition, the Committee provided input regarding the pro bono policy adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1997, which has been implemented in federal agencies throughout the country. The Committee also drafted language for the ABA's Law School Accreditation Standards (1996) pertaining to pro bono work.

Along with its policy initiatives, the Committee actively engages in outreach to the judiciary, government attorney offices, law schools, minority bar associations, small and mid-size law firms, and in-house corporate legal departments. The Committee is also the primary sponsor of the annual Pro Bono Publico Awards. The Committee co-sponsors the annual Equal Justice Conference with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. The Conference brings together all components of the legal community for plenary sessions, workshops, networking opportunities and special programming.

Center for Pro Bono

The Center for Pro Bono is a major project of the Committee and its implementation arm. The Center provides technical assistance and planning advice to a wide range of constituents in the field, including bar associations, pro bono programs, legal services offices, bar leaders, law schools, corporate counsel, judges and government attorneys. The Center also produces a number of publications, maintains a national Clearinghouse of materials on a wide range of pro bono topics and operates the Peer Consulting Project. The Peer Consulting Project involves peer consulting teams providing on-site technical assistance and planning advice to bar associations, legal services PAI programs, law schools and other groups activating or expanding pro bono programs.

In recent years, the Center has increased its efforts to coordinate and share information with other ABA entities concerning various pro bono projects within the Association. The Center has invited several ABA committees, commissions and task forces to sponsor workshops at the Equal Justice Conference.

Recognizing that clients in rural communities have a wide range of general civil legal needs that are not being met through the traditional legal services system, in Spring 2000, the Center launched the Rural Pro Bono Project. The central goal of the Project is to help fill the gaps in legal services delivery by encouraging pro bono advocates to develop strategies for serving rural clients.

In November 2000, the ABA, through a generous gift by Melita and William Grunow, created the Pro Bono Child Custody Project. This Project, a joint effort of the ABA's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and Family Law Section, will create a nationwide network of programs and volunteers to represent children in custody situations. The Project will support lawyers' efforts through training and substantive materials that will be made available on the Project's website. The Project is housed in the Center for Pro Bono.

Updated: 8/3/2006

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