by PBI Intern Søren Whiting
While carving pumpkins with your families or loved ones this fall, why not carve out time to celebrate pro bono?! As the season changes, pro bono practice is also transitioning into the start of a post-pandemic world. Despite the many obstacles over the past two years, pro bono endured, and that is worth celebrating and recognizing.
This October 24-30, 2021 marks the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 13th Annual Celebration of Pro Bono. The event is an opportunity to celebrate the perseverance of pro bono and recognize the work that still needs to be done to strengthen access to justice. This year’s theme for the Annual Celebration of Pro Bono is “Moving Forward in a Post-Pandemic World” — a theme that acknowledges the resiliency of pro bono and how the need for equal opportunities to access justice has only grown through the pandemic. There are so many opportunities to assist the millions of people now vulnerable to eviction, unemployment, bankruptcy, and countless other legal challenges brought forward by the pandemic. The Annual Celebration of Pro Bono is a unique way to connect with pro bono leaders across the country and learn the best practices that endured through COVID-19.
Many local bar associations, firms, and legal departments organize a “Pro Bono Week” or “Pro Bono Month” concurrent with the ABA’s Celebration. There are events, trainings, and opportunities to serve planned around the country, including:
- A CLE training on trauma-informed care to domestic violence survivors in restraining order hearings in Orange County, California, hosted by Human Options and the Public Law Center.
- A workshop hosted by the Georgia Justice Project on understanding Georgia’s criminal record clearing laws, including a recently passed bill that greatly expands expungement opportunities for the 4.2 million people who have a Georgia criminal record.
- A small business legal clinic where pro bono attorneys will hold one-on-one conversations with small businesses about their legal needs, hosted by Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston.
- The Minnesota Collaborative Justice Project, for which PBI is the backbone organization, is hosting a Reentry Justice Volunteer Engagement Event to introduce prospective volunteers to the Project’s Civil Legal Needs Initiative which provides pro bono legal assistance to formerly incarcerated Minnesotans to address barriers to successful reentry.
Back in Washington DC, the Washington Council of Lawyers has put together a committee of public and private attorneys to organize DC Pro Bono Week 2021, featuring free virtual clinics, webinars, and interdisciplinary events including:
- Pro Bono in a Virtual Age, a conversation with KIND, Legal Aid Society, and Bread for the City to discuss the logistics of doing pro bono in a virtual age.
- Immigration Consultation Clinic Citizenship Workshop hosted by the AILA DC Chapter Pro Bono and Equal Justice Works, to provide a virtual citizenship workshop.
- Advancing Environmental Justice and Climate Change Through Pro Bono Initiatives, a panel featuring leading climate advocacy associations to discuss pro bono opportunities for involvement in environmental justice and climate change initiatives.
- The Coming Eviction Crisis and How We Can Help, a program featuring a DC Superior Court Judge, and experienced eviction defense and pro bono attorneys, discussing the coming eviction crisis, new legal protections and rental assistance programs, and how you can help serve clients.
All DC Pro Bono week events are free but require registration.
Pro Bono Week is not limited to the United States. There are events around the globe. For example, during National Pro Bono Week in the UK, which is held from November 1 – 5, 2021, the In House Pro Bono Group is holding a webinar with Clifford Chance and Ropes & Gray on “In House Counsel and Law Firm Doing Pro Bono Together.” The session will discuss developing a partnership with an in house team and law firm, considerations when working on a pro bono project together, and overcoming challenges in a partnership.
Pro Bono Week is not only an opportunity to celebrate volunteer service but also a chance to launch new pro bono projects for your company or firm in the year ahead. Be part of a growing community of pro bono advocates seeking to redefine and advance access to justice.