Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2013 kicks off Oct. 21, 2013, with lawyers across the nation giving back to their communities by donating free legal services.
"Pro bono" translates to the "common good." It is a long-standing tradition that lawyers, upon taking the oath to practice law, help the defenseless, weak and oppressed regardless of an ability to pay. In fact, these words are included explicitly in the Indiana Oath of Attorneys.
The Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation in all criminal matters if you are unable to afford an attorney, but low-income individuals facing a civil legal case in court do not have that guarantee. Legal aid agencies exist to help fill this justice gap and provide legal representation for these impoverished individuals through free legal services. The majority of this representation is given through free legal services donated by attorneys.
Certain states require all licensed attorneys to take on a certain number of pro bono cases each year. Under Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 6.6, attorneys in Indiana, while not required to take cases, are encouraged to do so under their oath. Fifty hours of pro bono work is the suggested amount though many attorneys give more than this number. However, the need for legal help continues to grow while the number of hours given by attorneys continues to go down.
The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service launched this initiative now running into its fifth year in order to increase awareness of the need for pro bono services during difficult economic times, as well as a way to get more attorneys to meet this heightened demand.
According to the site: "Although national in breadth, the Celebration provides an opportunity for local legal associations across the country to take the next step in their efforts to provide high quality legal services to those living on the social margins."
Events will be held across the nation, including free legal clinics and presentations. Click here to find events in Indiana.