Voluntary Pro Bono Reporting
Frequently Asked Questions
Is pro bono service mandatory for lawyers admitted to practice in Ohio?
No. There is no Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct requiring pro bono service. The Supreme Court of Ohio, in its 2007 Statement Regarding the Provision of Pro Bono Legal Services by Ohio Lawyers,"strongly encourages each Ohio lawyer to ensure access to justice for all Ohioans by participating in pro bono activities."
Is reporting of pro bono service mandatory for lawyers admitted to practice in Ohio?
No. In the 2007 Statement Regarding the Provision of Pro Bono Legal Services by Ohio Lawyers, the Supreme Court oh Ohio announced it would develop, in conjunction with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, a means by which Ohio's lawyers may voluntarily and anonymously report pro bono activities and financial support for legal aid programs. [emphasis added]
Why does the Supreme Court of Ohio, in conjunction with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, offer a means by which Ohio lawyers may voluntarily and anonymously report their pro bono activities and financial support for legal aid programs?
- It enables recognition and celebration of pro bono work by Ohio's lawyers. Pro bono service is unpaid, but not unvalued.
- It documents civil legal needs that are being met as well as gaps in necessary services.
- It highlights the important role pro bono lawyers play by helping to solve the serious civil legal problems of Ohioans who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
Where may a reporting form be found?
In January of each year, attorneys with an active Ohio registration receive an email message from the Supreme Court of Ohio. The email message contains a link to a website for reporting pro bono legal work,and financial support of legal aid programs, for the previous calendar year. To maintain anonymity, the reporting website is not be part of the Supreme Court's website and information is collected without any personal identifiers.If the email containing the link cannot be located, attorneys may request another copy of the link by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What counts as pro bono legal services?
According to the Statement Regarding the Provision of Pro Bono Legal Services by Ohio Lawyers, which refers to the earlier Statement on Professionalism and Preamble to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, pro bono legal services are, in general,providing legal assistance to persons of limited means who cannot afford such assistance; providing legal counsel to charitable organizations that may not be able to pay for such services; OR making a contribution to an organization that provides legal services to persons of limited means. Because the reporting system is voluntary and anonymous, each attorney who chooses to report is expected to determine, in the exercise of professionalism, what properly constitutes pro bono legal services.
Should I report pro bono legal services provided to a client unable to pay a fee, even though the client was not referred to me by a legal aid or other organized pro bono program?
Yes. An attorney may report pro bono legal services provided by choice because the client could not afford to pay, regardless of whether the client was referred by a legal aid program or other organized pro bono program.
If a lawyer did not track the exact number of pro bono hours provided, are estimates OK?
Yes. Although exact record keeping is preferred, good faith estimates may be employed when an attorney chooses to report hours of pro bono legal services.
Do legal aid staff attorneys, public defenders, and prosecutors count their work time as pro bono, since they provide free legal service to low income people?
No. Although the services are free to the clients, the attorneys are paid for the work they perform. However, if such attorneys provide volunteer legal assistance to low income clients outside the scope of their regular employment, it may be reported as pro bono legal services.
How may a lawyer find out about local pro bono opportunities?
A lawyer may contact the local legal aid organization or bar association to learn how to obtain a pro bono case, volunteer for a pro bono clinic, or other pro bono opportunity; there is also an online, searchable directory of pro bono opportunities available at www.ohioprobono.org.
A client agreed to pay a fee and then failed to pay it. Is the case or matter then considered pro bono?
If a lawyer undertakes a representation intending to be paid, then the matter cannot be considered a pro bono case. However, if a lawyer undertakes a representation intending to be paid, and determines at some point to waive the fee based upon the client's inability to pay it, then the amount of uncompensated time may be considered to be pro bono legal services.
May an attorney make a financial contribution to a legal aid in lieu of providing pro bono legal services?
Yes. However, only financial contributions to Ohio organizations providing legal services to persons of limited means should be reported.