The Supreme Judicial Court has announced the establishment of a new Pro
Bono Recognition Program for lawyers who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment
to pro bono work by voluntarily assisting vulnerable people of limited financial
means with their legal issues. Each year the Program will honor those law firms,
solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government attorneys'
offices, non-profit organizations and law school faculties which certify that
they have met the Program criteria by providing significant pro bono legal
"We think it is important to recognize those lawyers, firms, and
organizations which have gone beyond the call of duty to help individuals and
families of limited means confront their urgent legal issues," said SJC Justice
Francis X. Spina, who chairs the SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal
Services which will administer the Program. "The lawyers who volunteer to
represent these often desperate citizens have done so at a time when the
economic pressures on their own practices have never been greater."
To qualify for the voluntary Program, the lawyer, firm, or organization must
certify that the pro bono legal services hours per attorney is at least 50 in a
given year; or more than 75 percent of the Massachusetts attorneys have provided
at least 25 pro bono hours in a year. More specific criteria for law firms
and organizations are listed in the attached program description.
The need for pro bono legal services is critical, in part, because of the
increased numbers of pro se litigants in Massachusetts courts and because of the
precipitous decline in recent years of Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts
(IOLTA) funding, which pays for civil legal services for people in need.
Rule 6.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Responsibility sets forth an
aspirational goal for Massachusetts lawyers to devote 25 hours per year to the
pro bono representation of persons of limited means.
The Access to Justice Commission, co-chaired by SJC Justice Ralph D. Gants,
recommended to the Justices that a pro bono commitment recognition program be
established in coordination with the Court’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono
Legal Services. "With so many in need of legal advice and services, it is
important to recognize the many attorneys who have followed Louis Brandeis's
extraordinary example in generously contributing their time to ensure that the
problems of those who cannot afford counsel are resolved promptly and fairly,"
noted Justice Gants.
The Supreme Judicial Court will acknowledge the attorneys, law firms and
organizations which are certified for the recognition program with a letter of
appreciation for their commitment to pro bono legal work. The names will be
listed on the SJC website and the attorneys, law firms, and organizations will
be honored each year at a special event at the John Adams Courthouse.
Those organizations that submit their certification forms for calendar year
2010 by September 15, 2011 will be invited to send a representative to the
October 2011 recognition event.
The certification form and program
information can be found on the SJC website at http://www.mass.gov/courts/sjc/pro-bono-recognition.html