Pro Bono Month

10/01/2019

WHEREAS, access to justice is a fundamental and essential right in a democratic society; and

WHEREAS, the “Justice Gap” is the difference between the level of civil legal assistance available and the amount that is necessary to meet the needs of low-income people; and 

WHEREAS, 48 percent of low- and moderate-income households experience a legal problem each year; and 

WHEREAS, one in eight Virginians are eligible for free legal services from Virginia’s legal aid programs; and

WHEREAS, there are 160 legal aid lawyers throughout the Commonwealth, meaning there is one legal aid lawyer per 6,000 low-income individuals in Virginia; and 

WHEREAS, more than 80 percent of the civil legal needs of the poor in Virginia and nationwide go unmet; and 

WHEREAS, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service will hold its Eleventh National Celebration of Pro Bono in 2019 to showcase the differences that pro bono lawyers make in their communities; and 

WHEREAS, here in the Commonwealth, Rule 6.1 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and its comments provide that every active lawyer should devote two percent of his or her professional time to pro bono legal services; and 

WHEREAS, in the event an attorney is unable to render direct legal assistance, he or she may fulfill their obligations by contributing financially to programs that provide pro bono legal services; and

WHEREAS, in 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia added Paragraph 22 to § IV of Part Six of the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia to provide for voluntary reporting of pro bono service and contributions; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia State Bar Annual Dues Statement sent to all Virginia attorneys now includes “Annual Dues Statement Section 5” to encourage and easily enable attorneys to voluntarily report their pro bono service and contributions; and

WHEREAS, on April 10, 2019, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia wrote a letter to Virginia attorneys encouraging them to provide pro bono legal assistance, specifically recommending that attorneys “engage with your colleagues, your local bar associations, your nearest legal aid office, the Virginia Access to Justice Commission, or the Virginia State Bar to learn more about the opportunities for pro bono service;” and

WHEREAS, in order to assist attorneys in handling pro bono cases, the Virginia Law Foundation has made available a library of free, online continuing legal educational materials and seminars that provides attorneys with additional information in areas such as family law, housing, and public benefits, which may be beyond the scope of their daily legal practice; and

WHEREAS, in undertaking pro bono legal service, attorneys can fulfill central ideals of the legal profession, and can make a significant contribution to help narrow the justice gap; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Access to Justice Commission accordingly focuses much of its work on encouraging Virginia lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to Virginians who cannot afford legal representation;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize October 2019 as PRO BONO MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.