ABA President to National Pro Bono Summit: Progress is What We’re Here For
ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III stressed the importance of access to justice and the pro bono work of lawyers across the country during his remarks at the ABA National Pro Bono Summit Monday in Washington, D.C. The two-day summit, sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, is part of the ABA’s annual Celebrate Pro Bono Week, during which lawyers, and many groups in the legal community, host events that focus on delivery of pro bono legal services to the poor and highlight the commitment pro bono lawyers provide daily to Americans. This year, local organizers have planned more than 600 events in 45 states. A complete list of pro bono events around the nation can be found online at http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/.
An ongoing goal of the standing committee, and a goal of the two-day summit, is to identify new models for pro bono that are workable, sustainable and achievable for the future.
With the poverty rate at 15 percent, the highest it has been since 1993, more than 63 million people qualify for civil legal services, including 22 million children.
“These are crucial times for pro bono and we need our collective wisdom to find ways to improve the delivery of legal services in this country,” said Larry McDevitt, chair of the standing committee.
Echoing McDevitt’s urgency, Robinson explained the common thread connecting the audience is their commitment to an independent judiciary and legal profession dedicated to access to justice for everyone, including the most vulnerable in society—those who cannot afford help.
Though Robinson warned the legal profession is not where it wants or needs to be in terms of ensuring access to justice for all, he looked forward to the future of pro bono. “There’s a great sense of optimism here,” he said. “The inability to achieve perfection should never stand in the way of progress and progress is what we’re here for.”
As part of an ongoing public conversation, the standing committee is hosting a forum for lawyers to share their opinions on how to best meet the growing needs for pro bono in the future. The conversation may be joined at: www.celebrateprobono.wordpress.com.
In closing, Robinson expressed his gratitude to lawyers in the profession who devote their personal skill and time to make a positive difference.
“That’s my definition of success in the profession of law — to what extent can we make a positive difference in the lives of those we have the privilege to serve,” Robinson added.