of the Special Committee on Access to Legal Services
The Access to Legal Services Committee was formed by the Virginia State Bar during the 1992-93 bar year as a merger of the pro bono and legal aid committees. Its mission includes fostering support for free and reduced fee legal services with the goal of improving access to the legal system for all Virginians and for nonprofit charitable and civic groups that serve the public good. It promotes pro bono publico services by Virginia lawyers and encourages the integrated development of like contributions by law school faculty and students, lay mediators, court reporters, interpreters, tax accountants, paralegals and members of related professions.
The committee continually examines ways in which access to legal services can be enhanced and opportunities for pro bono service can be expanded in a fashion that supports and complements the rich regional network of existing service providers. In doing this, it works with the Virginia judiciary, voluntary bar associations, the Public Defender Commission, and the licensed legal aid societies to help local coalitions identify and address areas of emerging need, redundancies, or gaps in service or information.
Through its annual conference and its award ceremonies, and through CLEs and outreach to new lawyers, the committee educates lawyers about Bar Council's Resolution to Enhance Pro Bono Publico in Virginia and about Rules 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3. In those and other fora , such as magazine articles and Web site postings, lawyers learn about resources to help them meet their ethical responsibilities.
The committee promotes and supports efforts to ensure that nonprofit groups and low income and other vulnerable, under-represented members of the public have access not only to the courts but also to a full range of affordable legal services including courthouse duty attorneys, legal advice, and expanded representation. In derivative efforts, the committee works with bar leaders, various bar entities and other groups to ensure that poor people and the nonprofit groups that represent them have a voice when deliberative and policy-making bodies engage in law reform or consider institutional and policy changes likely to impact the lives of needy clients.
The committee works with the Supreme Court of Virginia and with various bar groups dealing with UPL, MDP, legal ethics, pro se, court-appointed counsel fees, and related concerns to ensure that the needs of under-represented clients and the work of pro bono groups and other under-compensated providers are weighed during important deliberations. Aside from encouraging lawyers to voluntarily share stories about their substantive public service work with the wider bar and with the public at large, the committee fosters public recognition of lawyers for their pro bono contributions at the state, national and judicial circuit levels.
The committee's work may include other specific assignments or requests in its general areas of responsibility from the bar's officers, the executive committee, or council.
At the end of each bar year on June 30, the chair of the committee shall submit an annual report outlining the work and accomplishments of the committee during the preceding bar year. In addition, the chair shall prepare an interim report by February 1 each year for review by the executive committee and council at their February meetings.Updated: May 26, 2011