Pro Bono Information & Opportunities

Welcome to the Pro Bono Opportunities section of the YLD website.  As members of The Florida Bar, we have a professional responsibility to render pro bono legal services to those in need.  This page is intended to be a resource for you and your affiliate to carry out that professional responsibility, by posting pro bono ideas and opportunities around the state.  This page is frequently updated, so we hope you will check back often. If you have any questions or would like to share a pro bono project completed by your affiliate, please contact the YLD Pro Bono/Community Service Committee Chairs, Web Melton, wmelton@bushross.com, and Stephanie Myron, smyron@csapalaw.com.


The Duty of Legal Professionals

barlogoAs reflected in the Rules of Professional Conduct and by the Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar, assuring access to justice, especially for the poor and disadvantaged, is a centuries-old tradition of the legal profession.  The YLD encourages its members and affiliates to uphold and carry-on this tradition.  The following information is provided to assist young lawyers in fulfilling their responsibility to the profession and the public.

Learn about the Florida Bar Rules on Pro Bono:

The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar contain – among other topics – the Bylaws of The Florida Bar organization, the Rules of Discipline, the Rules of Professional Conduct, and other chapters on specific regulatory topics.

FL Rule 4-6.1 reflects the emphasis placed on pro bono services in recent years by The Florida Bar.

Rule 4-6.1 Pro Bono Public Service

(a) Professional Responsibility. Each member of The Florida Bar in good standing, as part of that member’s professional responsibility, should (1) render pro bono legal services to the poor and (2) participate, to the extent possible, in other pro bono service activities that directly relate to the legal needs of the poor. This professional responsibility does not apply to members of the judiciary or their staffs or to government lawyers who are prohibited from performing legal services by constitutional, statutory, rule, or regulatory prohibitions. Neither does this professional responsibility apply to those members of the bar who are retired, inactive, or suspended, or who have been placed on the inactive list for incapacity not related to discipline.
(b) Discharge of the Professional Responsibility to Provide Pro Bono Legal Service to the Poor.
 The professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services as established under this rule is aspirational rather than mandatory in nature. The failure to fulfill one’s professional responsibility under this rule will not subject a lawyer to discipline. The professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor may be discharged by:

(1) annually providing at least 20 hours of pro bono legal service to the poor; or
(2) making an annual contribution of at least $350 to a legal aid organization.

(c) Collective Discharge of the Professional Responsibility to Provide Pro Bono Legal Service to the Poor. Each member of the bar should strive to individually satisfy the member’s professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor. Collective satisfaction of this professional responsibility is permitted by law firms only under a collective satisfaction plan that has been filed previously with the circuit pro bono committee and only when providing pro bono legal service to the poor:
(1) in a major case or matter involving a substantial expenditure of time and resources; or
(2) through a full-time community or public service staff; or
(3) in any other manner that has been approved by the circuit pro bono committee in the circuit in which the firm practices.

(d) Reporting Requirement. Each member of the bar shall annually report whether the member has satisfied the member’s professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to the poor. Each member shall report this information through a simplified reporting form that is made a part of the member’s annual membership fees statement. The form will contain the following categories from which each member will be allowed to choose in reporting whether the member has provided pro bono legal services to the poor:
(1) I have personally provided _____ hours of pro bono legal services;
(2) I have provided pro bono legal services collectively by: (indicate type of case and manner in which service was provided);
(3) I have contributed $__________ to: (indicate organization to which funds were provided);
(4) I have provided legal services to the poor in the following special manner: (indicate manner in which services were provided); or
(5) I have been unable to provide pro bono legal services to the poor this year; or
(6) I am deferred from the provision of pro bono legal services to the poor because I am: (indicate whether lawyer is: a member of the judiciary or judicial staff; a government lawyer prohibited by statute, rule, or regulation from providing services; retired, or inactive).

The failure to report this information shall constitute a disciplinary offense under these rules.

(e) Credit Toward Professional Responsibility in Future Years.
 In the event that more than 20 hours of pro bono legal service to the poor are provided and reported in any 1 year, the hours in excess of 20 hours may be carried forward and reported as such for up to 2 succeeding years for the purpose of determining whether a lawyer has fulfilled the professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor in those succeeding years.

(f) Out-of-State Members of the Bar. Out-of-state members of the bar may fulfill their professional responsibility in the states in which they practice or reside.

Comment

Pro bono legal service to the poor is an integral and particular part of a lawyer’s pro bono public service responsibility. As our society has become one in which rights and responsibilities are increasingly defined in legal terms, access to legal services has become of critical importance. This is true for all people, be they rich, poor, or of moderate means. However, because the legal problems of the poor often involve areas of basic need, their inability to obtain legal services can have dire consequences. The vast unmet legal needs of the poor in Florida have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Florida and by several studies undertaken in Florida over the past two decades. The Supreme Court of Florida has further recognized the necessity of finding a solution to the problem of providing the poor greater access to legal service and the unique role of lawyers in our adversarial system of representing and defending persons against the actions and conduct of governmental entities, individuals, and nongovernmental entities. As an officer of the court, each member of The Florida Bar in good standing has a professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor. Certain lawyers, however, are prohibited from performing legal services by constitutional, statutory, rule, or other regulatory prohibitions. Consequently, members of the judiciary and their staffs, government lawyers who are prohibited from performing legal services by constitutional, statutory, rule, or regulatory prohibitions, members of the bar who are retired, inactive, or suspended, or who have been placed on the inactive list for incapacity not related to discipline are deferred from participation in this program.

In discharging the professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor, each lawyer should furnish a minimum of twenty hours of pro bono legal service to the poor annually or contribute $350 to a legal aid organization. “Pro bono legal service” means legal service rendered without charge or expectation of a fee for the lawyer at the time the service commences. Legal services written off as bad debts do not qualify as pro bono service. Most pro bono service should involve civil proceedings given that government must provide indigent representation in most criminal matters. Pro bono legal service to the poor is to be provided not only to those persons whose household incomes are below the federal poverty standard but also to those persons frequently referred to as the “working poor.” Lawyers providing pro bono legal service on their own need not undertake an investigation to determine client eligibility. Rather, a good faith determination by the lawyer of client eligibility is sufficient. Pro bono legal service to the poor need not be provided only through legal services to individuals; it can also be provided through legal services to charitable, religious, or educational organizations whose overall mission and activities are designed predominately to address the needs of the poor. For example, legal service to organizations such as a church, civic, or community service organizations relating to a project seeking to address the problems of the poor would qualify.

While the personal involvement of each lawyer in the provision of pro bono legal service to the poor is generally preferable, such personal involvement may not always be possible or produce the ultimate desired result, that is, a significant maximum increase in the quantity and quality of legal service provided to the poor. The annual contribution alternative recognizes a lawyer’s professional responsibility to provide financial assistance to increase and improve the delivery of legal service to the poor when a lawyer cannot or decides not to provide legal service to the poor through the contribution of time. Also, there is no prohibition against a lawyer contributing a combination of hours and financial support. The limited provision allowing for collective satisfaction of the 20-hour standard recognizes the importance of encouraging law firms to undertake the pro bono legal representation of the poor in substantial, complex matters requiring significant expenditures of law firm resources and time and costs, such as class actions and post-conviction death penalty appeal cases, and through the establishment of full-time community or public service staffs. When a law firm uses collective satisfaction, the total hours of legal services provided in such substantial, complex matters or through a full-time community or public service staff should be credited among the firm’s lawyers in a fair and reasonable manner as determined by the firm.

The reporting requirement is designed to provide a sound basis for evaluating the results achieved by this rule, reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the pro bono plan, and to remind lawyers of their professional responsibility under this rule. The fourth alternative of the reporting requirements allows members to indicate that they have fulfilled their service in some manner not specifically envisioned by the plan.

The 20-hour standard for the provision of pro bono legal service to the poor is a minimum. Additional hours of service are to be encouraged. Many lawyers will, as they have before the adoption of this rule, contribute many more hours than the minimum. To ensure that a lawyer receives credit for the time required to handle a particularly involved matter, this rule provides that the lawyer may carry forward, over the next 2 successive years, any time expended in excess of 20 hours in any 1 year.
[Revised: 10/01/1998]

Additional Resources

Pro Bono Awards and Recognition

Florida Bar YLD Annual Award: The Florida Bar YLD Pro Bono Award recognizes the public service or legal aid performed by a young lawyer (under the age of 36 or one who has not practiced for more than five years in any jurisdiction) who provides outstanding contributions to those in need of legal services. A nominee must be admitted to practice in Florida. For more information, visit our awards page.

Young Lawyer Spotlight:

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Rebecca Lauren Sosa, a Miami litigation associate attorney at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, is the recipient of the 2013 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

The Florida Bar News article outlining Sosa’s accomplishments and generosity.

 


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Laura E. Ward, an attorney at DLA Piper LLP in Tampa, is the recipient of the 2014 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

The Florida Bar News article outlining Ward’s accomplishments and generosity.

 


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Timothy Allen Moran, an Oviedo attorney in private practice, is the recipient of the 2012 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

The Florida Bar News article outlining Moran’s accomplishments and generosity.

Florida Supreme Court & Florida Bar Annual Awards

Each year, the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar give special recognition to lawyers, groups and a member of the judiciary who have freely given their time and expertise in making legal services available to the poor. Learn more about The Florida Bar Pro Bono Service Awards in Florida.

Pro Bono Opportunities & Ideas

Members of the Public: If you are a member of the public seeking pro bono legal assistance, please visit FloridaLawHelp.org.

Pro Bono Opportunities for Lawyers: If you are an attorney interested in volunteering for a pro bono project or pro bono service, please visit FloridaProBono.org

Pro Bono Opportunities Guides

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One Campaign
The mission of the One Campaign is to engage more attorneys in providing pro bono legal services to those in need through local Legal Aid Programs. The One Campaign encourages every attorney in our state to take One pro bono case. The One Campaign website allows you to search for pro bono opportunities on a local and statewide level. Please visit http://www.onepromiseflorida.org/ for more details.

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Miami Pro Bono Roundtable
Learn more about South Florida pro-bono opportunities through the Miami Pro Bono Roundtable and Pro Bono Opportunity Book by downloading the following PDFs: Miami Law Firm Pro Bono Roundtable Mission Statement and Pro Bono Opportunities Guides.

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Justice for Foster Youth at LAST
Justice for Foster Youth at LAST, or JFFY, is a service sponsored by Florida’s Children First. It is designed to provide free legal advice to young adults ages 18-25 who spent time in foster care. Download Flyer

To learn more about Florida’s Children First and Florida Youth Shine, please visit http://www.floridaschildrenfirst.org/ and http://www.floridaschildrenfirst.org/?page_id=525

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Project Street Youth
There are over 1.7 million homeless youth in the United States, and the population grows each year. Almost 40% of the homeless population is under 18 years of age. With these statistics in mind, the ABA YLD’s Public Service Team has partnered with the Center on Children and the Law and the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty to create Project Street Youth, with the goal of providing access to justice to this extremely underserved population. The Florida Bar YLD is teaming with the ABA YLD on this project.
http://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/initiatives/project_street_youth.html

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National Pro Bono Celebration
This year’s National Pro Bono Celebration week was October 19-25, 2014. Over the past five years, with the help of Florida’s lawyers, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has succeeded in creating an annual national spotlight on pro bono. For more information, please visit: http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/

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The Florida Bar Foundation
The Florida Bar Foundation is a philanthropic organization established in 1956 by The Florida Bar Board of Governors under the authority of the Florida Supreme Court with a mission to provide greater access to justice. The Florida Bar YLD encourages each of its members and affiliates to get involved. Please visit: http://www.flabarfndn.org/

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ABA Military Pro Bono Project
The American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project is designed to provide active-duty military personnel and families free legal assistance for civil legal issues. Please visit http://www.militaryprobono.org/ to learn more about how you can get involved.

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Lawyers for Children America
Lawyers for Children America is a national non-profit organization that offer free CLE seminars to train you on the legal system for abused and neglected children, child dependency proceedings, child development, and the ethical issues involved in representing children. The seminars have been approved for CLE credits, including ethics credit. There is no cost for these seminars if you accept a pro bono case; otherwise, the organization requests a $200.00 donation. To register, contact Carolyn Salisbury at 305/577-4771 or csalisbury@lawyersforchildrenamerica.org. For more information visit http://www.lawyersforchildrenamerica.org.

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Wills for Heroes
The Manatee Young Lawyers Division received an Outstanding Project Award at the 2010 Affiliate Outreach Conference for its Wills for Heroes Program. This project is designed to provide estate planning documents to emergency service personnel who risk their lives every day at work, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical service personnel. With this program, the participants complete an estate planning questionnaire prior to arrival at the event. The participants then schedule a thirty-minute meeting at the event and execute simple wills and estate planning documents with the assistance of volunteer attorneys. This project mimicks the successful Wills for Heroes Foundation events. To learn more about this program you may email Dana Laganella Gerling.

Successful Past Pro Bono Service Projects

Jacksonville Bar Association’s Ask-A-Lawyer Event
The Jacksonville Bar Association hosted its latest Ask-A-Lawyer event.  At the event, Jacksonville attorneys met with people who needed legal advice but found the cost of legal consultation cost prohibitive. For more information on upcoming events, visit http://www.jaxbar.org/view-events/

Additional Helpful Information on Pro Bono

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