Lawyers Set Example on National Day of Service and Throughout the Year
More than 40 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked, “What are you doing for others?” he challenged us to play a role to help each other and improve our communities. As lawyers with our tradition of pro bono service, we are at the forefront of these efforts by providing volunteer legal support to those who need it most yet cannot afford it.
Although any profession can make free service for the poor a part of its standard practice, it is the legal profession that includes pro bono as a core value. While the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct call on lawyers to spend 50 hours a year in pro bono service, lawyers in fact each contribute an average of more than 40 hours a year of pro bono service to people of limited means. We represent individuals at or near the poverty line in civil cases such as landlord-tenant disputes, custody issues and foreclosures. We also do legal work on behalf of organizations that serve the poor, such as homeless shelters.
But while we do much, there is still much to do. As we observe the national day of service that takes place to mark the birthday of Dr. King, I ask each of you again to commit yourself to service to our communities and our country. You can find opportunities for pro bono work by visiting probono.net. Other opportunities to serve are listed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Web site, www.serve.gov/mlkday. By posting your experiences on serve.gov, you can share your stories of service and impact and demonstrate how lawyers are making a difference in our communities.
Volunteer help is a renewable resource that becomes stronger and more abundant with use. By making a commitment to volunteer, we are honoring the memory of Dr. King.
And, we are able to answer what Dr. King called the more persistent and urgent question of our time, “What are you doing for others?”
January 14, 2010