The firms that take the Volunteers of Legal Service Pro Bono Pledge exceeded 1 million hours of pro bono service for the fourth year in a row, according to the results of our recently completed survey. These 43 law firms reported performing a total of 1,005,201 pro bono hours in New York City during 2011. Lawyers at these firms performed an average of 79 hours of pro bono service each. These numbers would be impressive in a booming economy. They are especially impressive in our uncertain economic times.
The numbers, however, tell only part of the story. The pro bono lawyers included in VOLS' survey won tangible benefits for thousands of individual low-income New Yorkers. They stopped evictions. They won crucial government benefits such as Social Security, Food Stamps and Medicaid. They enforced and defended civil rights. In VOLS' new Dream Not Deferred Project, they resolved immigration matters for aspiring public high school students so that those students can go on to college and work legally. More importantly, for their clients, and for our society, they won an intangible benefit: equal justice under law.
VOLS applauds the law firms and lawyers who once again put us over the 1 million-hour mark. But let's not rest on our laurels. According to the November 2011 report of Chief Judge Lippman's Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, at best, only 20 percent of the legal needs of low-income New Yorkers are being met. For the good of our profession and our justice system, we must continue to build on our proud tradition of pro bono service.
New York Law Journal
June 4, 2012
Sharon Katz provides pro bono legal services to incarcerated mothers on family law matters through the VOLS Incarcerated Mothers Law Project. She also participates in workshops for mothers at the prisons on rights and responsibilities of parents while they are incarcerated. In addition to providing legal services herself to this vulnerable population, she mentors and inspires other pro bono lawyers.
New York Law Journal Article: Davis Polk Names New Pro Bono Special Counsel
VOLS partners with White & Case, Community Pediatrics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, and Pro Bono Net to create SocialNeedsRx.org, a referral database to legal, social and medical services in New York City.
New York Law Journal Article: Professional Services Team Launches Referral Website
Karen Sacks, Founding Executive Director of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, cited her experience volunteering through VOLS as her inspiration.
NJ.com Article: Three questions: Karen Sacks of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
In 2009, a number of City Bar Presidents published essays on the City Bar's contributions to pro bono. Among the top achievements cited was the founding of Volunteers of Legal Service by Louis Craco and others in 1984.
City Bar Justice Center Article: Leaders for Justice: New York City Bar Presidents on Pro Bono and Access to Justice
City Bar Justice Center Publication: Leaders for Justice: New York City Bar Presidents on Pro Bono and Access to Justice