PBI is honored to present James W. Jones, Principal of Legal Management Resources LLC., with the PBI 2024 President’s Award at the PBI 2024 Annual Conference on March 7. The award recognizes Jim’s extraordinary contributions to PBI initiatives and unequaled thought and action leadership to pro bono in the legal community.
Jim is a champion of PBI’s mission, pro bono, and access to justice, and served as the PBI Chair of the Board of Directors for 27 years, since PBI’s inception.
In addition to being Principal of Legal Management Resources LLC, a consulting firm providing management and leadership resources for law firms around the world, Jim is also a Senior Fellow and Director of the Program on Trends in Law Practice at the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
He also served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project (1990-1996) and Co-Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Corporate Pro Bono Project (co-sponsored by PBI and the Association of Corporate Counsel) (1999-2003). In these capacities, Jim worked closely with PBI’s Founder and first President, Esther Lardent, to build PBI into the vibrant organization that it is today.
Jim was instrumental in the creation and launch of PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, initiated in 1993 and implemented in 1995. The Challenge set out, for the first time, a single standard for use by major law firms in assessing the scope and quality of their own pro bono programs. Signatories to the Challenge publicly acknowledged their institutional, firm-wide commitment to provide pro bono legal services to low-income individuals and non-profit groups serving them. The Challenge included a narrow, but thoughtful, definition of pro bono that has become the industry standard for large law firms and others, as well as an accountability mechanism and measurement tool through its performance benchmarks and annual reporting requirement.
Since its launch, the Pro Bono Challenge has been a major factor in encouraging and facilitating the expansion of pro bono activities in major law firms throughout the country. In 2022, the 124 Challenge signatory firms reported a total of almost 5 million hours of pro bono work, with about 75 percent of that work being performed for persons of limited means and organizations serving them. Additionally, some two-thirds of the partners in signatory firms participated in pro bono work, along with associates. Law Firm Challenge signatory firms have reported a total of almost 100 million hours of pro bono since its inception in 1995.
The success of the law firm initiative was followed in 2006 with PBI’s launch of the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge, an initiative encouraging corporate law departments to identify, benchmark, and communicate their support for pro bono service. This effort also proved quite successful. In 2023, there were 192 signatories to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge, including 51 Fortune 100 companies. In 2022, almost 50 percent of the lawyers in signatory law departments participated in pro bono work, and 74 percent of participating companies partnered with law firms on pro bono projects.
With the leadership and support of Jim and his fellow Board members, and with the tireless commitment of its dedicated staff, PBI also explored and identified a variety of other ways to enhance the provision of legal services to the poor, disadvantaged, and other individuals or groups unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. Today, PBI serves as a resource clearinghouse for pro bono activities; provides consulting services to both law firms and corporate law departments; sponsors PBEye Blog, PBI Wire, and various podcasts and webinars on access to justice issues; and issues publications including benchmarking reports and best practice profiles. PBI has also undertaken several highly successful special projects including the Minnesota Collaborative Justice Project, the Global Pro Bono Project, and an important effort to remove multijurisdictional barriers to pro bono practice for in-house lawyers.
Jim was also instrumental in guiding PBI through the transition following the untimely death of its Founder Esther Lardent in 2016. It is difficult for any organization to lose its founder, but in PBI’s case it was particularly challenging because Esther had been the visionary and guiding force in its development. Fortunately, Eve Runyon – who had served as head of PBI’s Corporate Pro Bono Project – was available to step in as Esther’s successor and, with the support and encouragement of an amazing staff, was able to effectuate a highly successful transition.
Jim’s commitment to pro bono has not been limited to his activities at PBI. As an associate and partner at Arnold & Porter (1973-1995) and as Managing Partner of the firm (1986-1995), he was an active participant in pro bono work. Indeed, the first case he ever handled was a pro bono matter. In 1998, Jim chaired a special initiative in the D.C. Bar to help create pro bono opportunities for transactional lawyers, a project for which he was recognized with the Frederick Abramson Award for Pro Bono Service in 1999. In 1993, Jim received a special award for leadership in the development and implementation of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project from the ABA Fund for Justice and Education. And, in 1999, he received a special award for public service and pro bono contributions from the ABA Law Firm Pro Bono Project.
Apart from his activities relating to access to justice issues, Jim’s public service has extended to many other organizations in the Greater Washington Area including the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, where he served as a member (1994-2006) and chairman (2003-2006) of the Board of Trustees; Children’s National Medical Center and the Children’s Research Institute, where he served as a member of the Board of Trustees (1995-2002); Bearacuda Re (captive insurance company of the Children’s National Medical Center), where he served as a member (1997-2021) and chairman (2009-2021) of the Board of Trustees; and The Greater Washington Board of Trade, of which he served as President (1993).