It’s never too early to start planning a celebration. The American Bar Association wants you to join hundreds of groups planning to celebrate the important contribution that pro bono lawyers make to access to justice efforts across the country. With this year’s National Celebration of Pro Bono scheduled for Oct. 24-30, there is still plenty of time to get involved, said Mike Pratt, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.
The Committee launched the National Pro Bono Celebration last year as a way to promote pro bono work, while also showcasing the impact pro bono lawyers have on their communities. Hundreds of organizations coordinated more than 650 events in 48 states during the last week of October.
For those interested in participating this year, “the first thing to do is to wander around on the website and explore the different resource materials,” says Mike. Individuals can find events in their area, while bar associations, legal services offices, law firms, law schools and other groups can find event ideas, organizing tips and planning guides and sample promotional material and other resources. Additional planning aids are added regularly to the site.
The site was built by Pro Bono Net which “has created a wonderful set of tools we’ve been able to use,” Mike said. These include an event calendar where organizations can enter their events, as well as an interactive map where you can find celebration activities being planned in your community, color-coded by type of event (clinic, CLE training, awards ceremony, etc.). Site visitors can also see videos of last year’s events. Organizations can download the official Celebration logo for their websites and even order “Celebrate Pro Bono” backpacks and coffee mugs for their events.
Last year’s events included “ask a lawyer” hotlines; community legal education programs; free legal clinics focusing on areas such as special education, domestic violence, foreclosure and landlord-tenant issues; in-person and online CLE programs; kickoffs of new initiatives; pro bono recruitment fairs; and awards ceremonies. There were also less traditional ideas, such as a battle of the bands, a community screening of To Kill a Mockingbird followed by discussion, art exhibits and even a “Run for Justice.” Organizations were encouraged to seek media coverage of their events, and were often successful.
Those planning events are encouraged to “take the next step,” and develop events that advance the pro bono enterprise in their local area. Participants should “always look for client service opportunities, ways that not just the legal services program but the private bar can participate,” noted Mike. In addition, organizations should try to coordinate events within their communities. Last year, “some areas organized at a state or citywide level and planned out a series of activities sponsored by various groups throughout the celebration week,” he said. At the very least, coordination ensures that groups aren’t “tripping over each other as they try to celebrate pro bono.”
After the wide range of events developed last year, the ABA’s Pro Bono Committee is looking forward to seeing what year two brings. “People were very creative,” Mike says. “There was excitement generated for the idea of celebrating pro bono and people came up with some wonderful ideas.”
Organizations and individuals looking to get involved should start at www.celebrateprobono.org. The ABA has also retained the services of a consultant to provide assistance to those planning events throughout the country. For additional information, assistance and support, contact the ABA at firstname.lastname@example.org.