Bar Issue Papers
Pro Bono Publico
(For the Good of the Public)
On This Page
II. Bar Position
IV. Facts and Statistics
In response to this need, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that lawyers should aspire to do 20 hours of pro bono a year or contribute $350 to a legal aid organization. Although this goal, set by the Court, is not mandatory, individual reporting of pro bono hours or dollars contributed (if any) is required. This decision does not force involuntary service of lawyers, but it does provide a necessary and accurate picture of the need and fulfillment of legal aid to indigent Floridians.
Although the ranks of Florida attorneys have continued to grow in the nearly two decades since that report, pro bono hours have remained flat. To encourage more attorneys to volunteer, in October 2009, during Florida Pro Bono Week an at a ceremony at the Florida Supreme Court, Florida Bar leaders helped to kick off the One campaign to increase pro work among Florida lawyers . The premise of the campaign is “One: One client. One attorney. One promise.” The goal is to get attorneys to each take one pro bono case. More information about the One Campaign and pro bono opportunities can be found online at www.onepromiseflorida.org.
II. Bar Position
A. American Bar Association Position
The American Bar Association elected to encourage lawyers to volunteer more services to the indigent. The American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 (1993) states, "A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year." The American Bar Association's House of Delegates, voted in February 1993, to amend rule 6.1. The Rule states, "a substantial majority" of the 50 hours should be devoted to serving people with limited means. The amended Rule provides that contributions in lieu of pro bono service are acceptable when pro bono service "is not feasible.''
B. The Florida Bar's Position
The Florida Bar position regarding pro bono work is contained in the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, Chapter 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), section 6.1 which was replaced on June 23, 1993, by the Florida Supreme Court. The Court adopted the new rule based on recommendations of The Florida Bar/Florida Bar Foundation Joint Commission on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Indigent in Florida. The Florida Bar was the first state to adopt a required reporting rule.
In December 1998, The Florida Bar Government Lawyer Section voted to support legislative intent language to clarify that statutory restrictions on the private practice of law by government lawyers do not preclude the lawyers from providing pro bono legal services.
A. The Florida Bar Involvement
For the first half of the 20th century, legal aid in Florida was provided primarily by bar-sponsored legal aid organizations and for many years, organized legal aid was a reality only in the larger cities. The '60s brought the formation of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a federally funded legal aid system.
In 1970, The Florida Bar commissioned a study of the legal needs of the poor in the state. This study, known as the "Levinson Report," found that only 21 of Florida's 67 counties had an organized program for providing legal services to the poor. A major recommendation was to form a nonprofit corporation for the expansion and coordination of legal services to the poor on a statewide basis.
In response, The Florida Bar, in cooperation with the Governor's Office and legal services programs, organized Florida Legal Services, Inc. (FLS) in 1974. Pro Bono involvement continued to suffer, however, because of a perception that LSC programs had eliminated the need for private lawyer participation. The falsity of the perception was illustrated by a 1982 Bar study which revealed that LSC could meet no more than a fraction of the needs of the poor and that bar-sponsored legal aid programs should be revitalized.
To encourage pro bono activities, the Bar established a project, now a part of Florida Legal Services, Inc., to coordinate pro bono participation with local LSC offices.
In 1982, The Florida Bar again asserted its role as a national leader in public service when it became the first state to implement an interest on trust accounts program (IOTA). The income generated by IOTA goes primarily to providing legal services to the poor.
In 1984, The Florida Bar Commission on Access to the Legal System was formed to explore alternatives to increase access to the legal system for the poor and middle class. The commission presented its finding to the Board of Governors in September 1985. A major commission recommendation was to request the Florida Supreme Court to modify the Code of Professional Responsibility changing the wording from "a lawyer should" to "a lawyer shall" provide pro bono service, which in effect would make such service mandatory. The Board of Governors did not adopt the mandatory provision, but voted to "encourage all Florida Bar members to redouble their efforts to contribute services to pro bono work.''
In 1990, the Joint Commission on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Indigent in Florida was conceived by The Florida Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation following the adoption of mandatory Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) by the Supreme Court of Florida. The agenda of the joint commission was expanded specifically to study the status and possible expansion of pro bono legal services in Florida after a petition commonly known as the "D'Alemberte Petition" was filed. On December 14, 1990, the court ruled that Florida Bar members have a duty to accept appointments from judges to represent indigents, even in civil cases. Further, the justices said
On June 23, 1993, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted the Voluntary Pro Bono Plan as part of Rule 4-6, Public Service, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. The plan requires Florida Bar members to annually report pro bono work and established an aspirational goal for attorneys to annually provide at least 20 pro bono hours contribute at least $350 to a legal aid organization. The Pro Bono Compliance Certificate appeared for the first time on The Florida Bar membership dues statement for Bar year 1994/95.
On May 22, 1997, the Supreme Court of Florida denied the petition to make pro bono reporting voluntary concluding that there had been no fundamental change in the circumstances surrounding the issue of pro bono reporting since the Court first determined that accurate reporting is essential for evaluating the delivery of legal services to the poor and for determining where such services are not being provided.
In 2001, the reported data began to indicate that pro bono legal service hours per lawyer were declining. The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono obtained a grant from the Florida Bar Foundation and retained a national consultant to civil legal aid providers, Carmody and Associates, to investigate the decline in pro bono services. Carmody and Associates was also asked to recommend measures to strengthen the pro bono framework and reverse the decline in attorney participation. The 2008 Carmody Report, “Pro Bono: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” was delivered to the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee, and may be found online.
The Carmody Report’s recommendations, addressed to every pro bono constituent from law schools to voluntary bar associations, from law firms and individual lawyers to the judiciary, re-energized Florida’s pro bono community.
As described above, in October 2009 the Standing Committee, led by Judge William Van Nortwick, launched the “One” Campaign, with the objective of persuading every attorney in Florida to help at least ONE client in ONE case. With the assistance of the Florida Bar Foundation, the campaign used a broad array of on-line media, posters, and videos to reach attorneys throughout the state.
B. Judicial Involvement
On Feb. 20, 1992, the Supreme Court of Florida accepted the recommendations of The Florida Bar/Florida Bar Foundation Special Commission by adopting its comprehensive proposals to expand access for the poor to the justice system. The ruling called for lawyers to contribute at least 20 hours of free legal work for the poor or to donate $350 to legal service organizations that represent the indigent, the most comprehensive statewide system for volunteer legal assistance to the poor in the United States. The court also asked that a mandatory reporting rule be adopted whereby every lawyer reports pro bono contributions. The plan went into effect Oct. 1, 1993 (see Bar position for Supreme Court adoption).
Florida’s judiciary has long recognized the difficulties confronted by those persons unable to afford representation in civil matters. The Supreme Court has supported the preparation of self-help websites and forms, the annual pro bono awards ceremony conducted at the Court each January and other initiatives to encourage lawyers to act on their Oath of Admission to The Florida Bar, “. . . to never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed. . . . .” At the passing of the gavel ceremony on June 30, 2014, incoming Chief Justice Jorge Labarga pledged to address access to justice in Florida, noting that only 20 percent of indigent Floridians are able to receive legal counsel.
The federal judiciary in Florida has also been supportive of the pro bono initiatives described above. As but one example, U.S. Bankruptcy Judges Catherine McEwen in Tampa and Laurel Isicoff in Miami have encouraged robust pro bono representation (through their local bankruptcy bar associations) in their courts for debtors unable to afford private counsel.
C. Increasing Role of Information Technology
The Florida Bar, the Florida Bar Foundation, Florida Legal Services, and local pro bono committees have steadily increased the use of on-line media to support pro bono volunteers and their prospective clients. Websites such as www.floridaprobono.org and www.dadecountyprobono.org permit volunteers and clients alike to survey available cases and services.
Through the “Lawyers in Libraries” initiative, the computers in public libraries (and the library staff) become an accessible neighborhood directory for these pro bono services. Training videos and webinars are available to help private attorneys learn the procedural and substantive aspects of those cases that may be less familiar to them — landlord/tenant, foreclosure, dissolution of marriage, and guardianship cases, for example.
In addition, each court and clerk’s office in Florida is now able to use a website to make self-help forms, information, “frequently asked questions,” and other resources available to citizens needing legal assistance but unable to afford private counsel. See, for example, the website at www.flcourts.org/resources-and-services/family-courts/family-law-self-help-information
Information technology also helps pro bono coordinators maintain lists of volunteers by case category, report on available client cases quickly, and post schedules for classes, webinars, and awards for pro bono volunteers.
IV. Facts and Statistics
- The report of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Services to the Supreme Court of Florida, The Florida Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation indicates that Florida Bar members personally reported the following hours of pro bono legal assistance donated to the poor and dollars contributed to legal aid organizations:
|Pro Bono Hours Donated||Pro Bono Dollars Contributed|
|July 1, 1993 - June 30, 1994||806,874||$1,518,781|
|July 1, 1994 - June 30, 1995||561,351||$876,837|
|July 1, 1995 - June 30, 1999||709,070||$1,169,718|
|July 1, 1996 - June 30, 1997||842,305||$1,427,263|
|July 1, 1997 - June 30, 1998||989,333||$1,861,627|
|July 1, 1998 - June 30, 1999||1,068,666||$1,688,708|
|July 1, 1999 - June 30, 2000||1,146,501||$1,642,033|
|July 1, 2000 - June 30, 2001||1,206,357||$2,314,181|
|July 1, 2001 - June 30, 2002||1,247,546||$2,459,660|
|July 1, 2002 - June 30, 2003||1,298,202||$3,746,150|
|July 1, 2003 - June 30, 2004||1,457,644||$3,790,700|
|July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005||1,322,138||$3,408,484|
|July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006||1,450,505||$3,924,792|
|July 1, 2006 - June 30, 2007||1,398,467||$4,446,486|
|July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008||1,489,099||$5,288,466|
|July 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009||1,545,157||$4,443,830|
|July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2010||1,614,676||$4,637,265|
|July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011||1,622,449||$4,812,275|
|July 1, 2011- June 30, 2012||1,675,498||$4,885,236|
|July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013|
July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014
The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award began in 1982. The winners are:
Ira J. Kurzban, Miami (1982)
Philip John Padovano, Tallahassee (1983)
Neil Chonin, Coral Gables (1984)
William J. Sheppard, Jacksonville (1985)
Roderick Norman Petrey, Miami (1986)
Steven Lauren Seliger, Quincy (1987)
Jean Gillespie Booher, Ft. Lauderdale (1988)
Herbert Lee Allen, Jr., Orlando (1989)
Howard W. Dixon, Miami (1990)
Alexandra delaVergne St. Paul, Bradenton (1991)
Steven Mark Goldstein, Tallahassee (1992)
Nancy S. Palmer, Maitland (1993)
Allan Howard Terl, Ft. Lauderdale (1994)
Leon Blakely Cheek, III, Fern Park (1995)
Richard Craig Milstein, Miami (1996)
James M. Russ, Orlando (1997)
Vance Edwin Salter, Miami (1998)
Daniel Frederick Wilensky, Jacksonville (1999)
Victor Manuel Diaz, Jr., Miami (2000)
Gerald Israel Kornreich, Miami (2001)
Maurice Wagner, Deltona (2002)
Jacqueline Marie Valdespino, Miami (2003)
Edward M. Waller, Jr., Tampa (2004)
James M. Vanderplas, Indian Rocks Beach (2005)
Katherine Warthen Ezell, Miami (2006)
Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, Tallahassee (2007)
Sylvia Hardaway Walbolt, Tampa (2008)
Russell E. Carlisle, Ft. Lauderdale (2009)
Robert C. Josefsberg, Miami (2010)
Robert G. Kerrigan, Pensacola (2011)
Rosemary E. Armstrong, Tampa (2012)
Jeanne Trudeau, Tampa (2013)
Karen Meyer Buesing, Tampa (2014)
- In 1985, The Florida Bar was named a winner of the Harrison Tweed Award for its program of finding pro bono attorneys for indigent Death Row inmates for death-sentenced collateral appeals. The awards are sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
Law firms receiving the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court commendation for pro bono:
Thomson, Zeder, Bohrer, Werth, Adorno & Razook (1985)
Holland & Knight (1990)
Fine Jacobson Schwartz Nash Block & England (1991)
Greenberg, Traurig, Hoffman, Lipoff, Rosen & Quentelo, P.A., (1991)
Emmanuel, Sheppard & Condon (1992)
Wooten, Honeywell & Kest, P.A. (1993)
Steel Hector & Davis (1994)
Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal and Banker, P.A. (1995)
The Broward County Attorney’s Office, Office of the Public Defender (1997)
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (1998)
Fisher & Sauls, P.A. (2000)
Podhurst Orseck Josefsburg Eaton Meadow Olin & Perwin, P.A. (2001)
Markowitz, Davis, Ringel & Trusty, P.A. (2002)
Carlton Fields (2003)
Kozyak, Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A. (2004)
Barrett & Barrett (2005)
Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns LLP (2006)
Hogan & Hartson LLP (2007)
Messer & Messer (2007)
City Attorney’s Office, City of Tallahassee (2008)
Fishback, Dominick, Bennett, Stepter, Ardaman, Ahlers, Bolton & Langley LLP (2009)
Hunton & Williams LLP (2010)
Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, P.A. (2010)
Foley & Lardner, LLP (2011)
Fisher, Butts, Sechrest, Warner and Palmer, P.A., (2012)
Clark & Washington, P.C. (2013)
Stichter, Riedel, Blain & Prosser, P.A. (2014)
- Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award from the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Recipients have been:
Hillsborough County Bar Association (1991)
Orange County Bar Association (1992)
Put Something Back, A Joint Project of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit and Dade County Bar Association (1993)
The Legal Aid Foundation of the Tallahassee Bar Association, Inc. (1994)
Escambia/Santa Rosa Bar Association (1995)
Counsel for Cuban Detainees (1996)
Jacksonville Bar Association (1997)
Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, Inc. (1998)
Collier County Bar Association (1999)
Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida (2000)
St. Petersburg Bar Association (2001)
Jacksonville Bar Association (2002)
Indian River County Bar Association (2003)
Clearwater Bar Association (2005)
Hispanic Bar Association, Stetson College of Law (2006)
Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida (2007)
Cuban American Bar Association (2008)
Dade County Bar Association (2009)
Seminole County Bar Association (2010)
Tallahassee Women Lawyers (2011)
St. Lucie County Bar Association (2012)
Tampa Bay Hispanic Bar Association (2013)
Central Florida Bankruptcy Law Association (2014)
Distinguished Judicial Service Award. Recipients have been:
Hon. William A. Van Nortwick, Jr., Tallahassee (2005)
Hon. Charles A. Francis, Tallahassee (2006)
Hon. Lauren L. Brodie, Naples (2007)
Hon. Michael Francis Andrews, Clearwater (2008)
John Robert Blue (Retired Judge), St. Petersburg (2009)
Hon. Nikki Ann Clark, Tallahassee (2010)
Hon. Susan G. Sexton, Tampa (2011)
Hon. James M. Barton, Tampa (2012)
Hon. Claudia Rickert Isom, Tampa (2013)
Hon. Emily A. Peacock, Tampa (2014)
- Young Lawyers Division Legal Aid Public Service Award. Recipients have been:
Robert Alan Williams, Tallahassee (1993)
A. Bryant Applegate, Orlando (1994)
Cheryl Ada Elizabeth Little, Miami (1995)
Robert Lowery Hamilton, Orlando (1996)
Michelle Anchors, Tallahasssee (1997)
Karen Josefsberg Ladis, Miami (1998)
Scott Edmonds Ray, Miami (1999)
Steven H. Malone, West Palm Beach (2000)
Jacqueline Hogan Scola, Miami (2001)
Lawrence Howard Kolin, Orlando (2002)
Laurel Francis Moore, Tampa (2003)
Thomas Alan Zehnder, Orlando (2004)
Melanie Emmons Damian, Miami (2005)
Mac Richard McCoy, Tampa (2007)
Heather Pinder Rodriguez, Orlando (2008)
Carin Manders Constantine, St. Petersburg (2009)
Monica Miller Evans, Tallahassee (2010)
Rachel May Zysk, Tampa (2011)
Timothy Allen Moran, Oviedo (2012)
Rebecca Lauren Sosa, Miami (2013)
Laura E. Ward, Tampa (2014)
- In January 1985, the Board of Governors voted to approve an "emeritus attorney" program allowing retired lawyers to provide free legal aid to indigents without being active members in good standing of The Florida Bar. (See Chapter 12, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.)
Prepared by The Florida Bar Department of Public Information and Bar Services with the assistance of the Public Services Programs Department.