AILA's Pro Bono Newsletter

Pro Bono Newsletter, Winter 2013

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What More Can We Do? Take the AILA Pro Bono Pledge by Deirdre M. Giblin I n 1993, the American Bar Association (ABA) amended Model Rule 6.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to emphasize the importance of providing free civil and legal services for the needy in their communities.  The change led 17 states to adopt the new rule which added the word "voluntary" to the title and rewrote the rule to include an aspirational goal of "at least 50 hours of pro bono public legal services per year."  Lawyers around the country took action, including AILA members. AILA National and AILA Chapters recognize that immigration attorneys are in a unique position to influence, direct and provide pro bono immigration legal services. In 2008, AILA adopted its own set of pro bono standards to promote and encourage the immigration bar to continually strive to meet the needs of indigent and disadvantaged immigrants throughout the country.  What More Can We Do? According to the ABA, 93% of attorneys in the United States feel that "pro bono work is something an attorney should do" and 66% act on that sentiment! In a 2009 study conducted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, respondents confirmed an increasing level of pro bono interest and participation among attorneys. Both the overall percentage of pro bono participation and the average number of pro bono hours have increased since the ABA first conducted the study in 2005. On average, attorneys surveyed reported providing approximately 41 hours of pro bono service to persons of limited means or organizations serving the poor. This percentage was up from 39 hours reported in 2005. Similarly, AILA's 2011 Marketplace Study revealed that on average, AILA members provide 30 hours of pro bono service annually. Members who specialized in asylum and removal defense ranked higher than average, with a median of 50 hours of pro bono per year, whereas members whose primary source of income was from business and employment averaged 25 hours of pro bono annually. But AILA's slightly lower numbers don't tell the whole story. Over 85% of AILA members practice as solos or in small firms with six or fewer attorneys. The ABA membership, on the other hand, is comprised primarily of attorneys from large corporate law firms with vast resources. Solo and small firm practitioners represent only 12% of the ABA's membership! Viewed in such a context, AILA members are pretty great at giving back! Motivators for Doing Good In the wake of the 2013 launch of the AILA Member Pro Bono Pledge, let's take a look at what motivates our individual pro bono efforts. The ABA study went beyond just numbers and tried to capture the why behind these good deeds. The leading motivators were a sense of professional duty and Take the Pro Bono Pledge! personal satisfaction derived from work, followed by an "understanding of the needs of the poor." Less than 15% of attorneys listed "professional benefits" as their motivator. Older attorneys were more likely to report doing pro bono than younger attorneys, and more than threefourths of those who had performed pro bono service in the past year indicated that they do not seek out pro bono opportunities: the opportunities find them. Imagine how many others we could help by looking beyond the boundaries of our own offices! Detractions that get in the way of our good intentions Working with pro bono clients can be personally and professionally fulfilling, but we know that finding time to devote to such service is not easy. The ABA study found that a lack of time was the primary de-motivator (69%) for doing pro bono work. Other factors discouraging pro bono activity were employer related issues, such as billable hours, expectations and employer discouragement (15%); a lack of expertise or needed skills (15%); and cost concerns (12%). CONTINUED on pg.5 >> www.aila.org 4

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