In response to a need for legal services to the poor, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that lawyers should aspire to do 20 hours of pro bono work 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.
Pro Bono Service and Reporting
Individual Pro Bono Service Volunteer Opportunities
- Florida Pro Bono Matters is an interactive website that enables attorneys to search for pro bono cases that suit their interests and submit an interest form to the legal aid or pro bono program that posted the case.
- Florida Free Legal Answers is a pro bono project that allows you to conduct pro bono service online from your office, your home or wherever you choose. Enrollment is open to all eligible Florida Bar members. Read “Top 10 Tips for Answering Free Legal Answers Questions“
- Florida Guardian Ad Litem program website offers volunteer opportunities.
- Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Hotline is a service provided in conjunction with the ABA Young Lawyers Section and FEMA to provide basic civil legal services for victims of a natural disaster who cannot otherwise afford legal representation.
Members report pro bono service individually each year through a simplified reporting form that is part of the annual membership fees statement.
Collective Pro Bono Service Option
Bar rules allow law firms to devise a collective plan where some firm lawyers can devote most or all of their time to pro bono work with the resulting hours spread among all firm lawyers. This option was designed to encourage firms to tackle more demanding and complicated pro bono cases.
Collective satisfaction is permitted when law firms provide pro bono legal service to the poor or working poor:
- in a major case or matter involving a substantial expenditure of time and resources;
- through a full-time community or public service staff; or
- in any other manner that has been approved by the circuit pro bono committee in the circuit in which the firm practices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do I have to report my pro bono hours?
A. Under the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: Chapter 4. Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules 4-6.1 – Rule 4-6.5) governing Public Service:
Each member of the bar shall annually report whether the member has satisfied the member’s professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to the poor. Each member shall report this information through a simplified reporting form that is made a part of the member’s annual membership fees statement. The form will contain the following categories from which each member will be allowed to choose in reporting whether the member has provided pro bono legal services to the poor:
(1) I have personally provided _____ hours of pro bono legal services;
(2) I have provided pro bono legal services collectively by: (indicate type of case and manner in which service was provided);
(3) I have contributed $__________ to: (indicate organization to which funds were provided);
(4) I have provided legal services to the poor in the following special manner: (indicate manner in which services were provided); or
(5) I have been unable to provide pro bono legal services to the poor this year; or
(6) I am deferred from the provision of pro bono legal services to the poor because I am: (indicate whether lawyer is: a member of the judiciary or judicial staff; a government lawyer prohibited by statute, rule, or regulation from providing services; retired, or inactive).
The failure to report this information shall constitute a disciplinary offense under these rules.
Q. Am I required to provide a certain number of pro bono hours?
A. No, the rules state that “[e]ach member of the bar should strive to individually satisfy the member’s professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor.” The aspirational goal is 20 hours annually in pro bono service or $350 in contributions to legal aid organizations.
Q. Several members of my law firm contributed pro bono hours to one project; do we report them as a law firm or individually?
A. Individually. Your firm will credit the hours among the firm’s lawyers in a fair and reasonable manner as determined by the firm. Please check with your firm administrator.
Q. I did not report my pro bono hours on my Annual Dues statement form. How can I report them now?
A. Just send an email or letter to Membership Records, 651 E. Jefferson St. Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300.
Pro Bono Administration
- The Florida Bar Pro Bono Legal Services Committee reviews the material and information submitted pursuant to the pro bono rules and to present to the Board of Governors and the Supreme Court any suggested changes or modifications to the pro bono rules.
- Pro Bono Publico History includes information about the history of pro bono service in Florida, and provides the hours of pro bono legal assistance donated to the poor and dollars contributed to legal aid organizations as reported by Florida Bar members.
Pro Bono Awards
Each year, the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar recognize and honor lawyers, groups and a member of the judiciary who have freely given their time and expertise in making legal services available to the poor. The Pro Bono Service Awards are awarded in January each year and nominations are requested each fall.