Resolution to Enhance Pro Bono Publico in Virginia


Introduction

On February 27, 1999, the Council of the Virginia State Bar adopted the following Resolution. The resolution encourages voluntary collaboration between VSB, the Virginia Supreme Court and other groups to support existing programs and develop new ways of addressing unmet or emerging legal needs at several geographic levels.

Through the resolution, the bar agrees to: (1) provide periodic opportunities for attorneys to voluntarily describe their pro bono and other community service work; (2) use this information to inform the public of the outstanding work of Virginia lawyers; and (3) provide generic information and technical assistance upon request to interested groups and individuals.

Consistent with the broad language of the new Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (6.1 and 6.2), the resolution is intended to encompass not only personal legal assistance to needy individuals in civil and mediation cases, but also the free and reduced fee work currently done by court-appointed defense counsel, and the legal advice and representation to charitable, civic, and religious groups that has historically been undertaken without standard compensation by many committed Virginia lawyers.

Resolution to Enhance Pro Bono Publico In Virginia

WHEREAS, the American justice system, as structured within the democratic process, is a primary branch of government whose legitimacy rests on equal access to legal counsel and representation, regardless of one’s financial resources, as essential to the preservation of liberty, protection of property, and fair and just resolution of disputes; and

WHEREAS, Virginia lawyers through their acceptance of pro bono publico civil cases and court appointed matters have long been an integral part of the Commonwealth’s tradition of public service; and

WHEREAS, lawyers are members of a self-regulating profession that is vital to the integrity of the justice system, bearing special responsibilities to help ensure that those of limited financial means and other vulnerable and under-represented populations are not excluded from the justice system because of their inability to pay for legal assistance; and

WHEREAS, lawyers in Virginia govern themselves under a code of conduct and are inspired by a common culture that recognizes a duty to act in the public interest and to uphold the integrity of the justice system; and

WHEREAS, the existing and proposed Virginia rules of professional conduct recommend that all Virginia lawyers donate two percent of their professional time to pro bono activities each year; and

WHEREAS, Virginia lawyers individually and collectively have addressed this aspect of their professional responsibilities by establishing an exceptional and well-documented history of providing free or reduced fee civil and criminal representation to those unable to pay for such services; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia State Bar (VSB) recognizes that despite continued and substantial voluntary effort on the part of its members, there remain unmet and unique legal needs, some of which can best be met by trained poverty lawyers, and other needs which can sometimes be met by pro bono activities undertaken at the local, circuit, or regional level; and

WHEREAS, there is an ancillary need to enhance public awareness of the scope and availability of pro bono and reduced fee services provided by Virginia lawyers, as well as the amount and variety of other significant community service performed by lawyers in the Commonwealth;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the VSB, that the VSB work in collaboration with the Virginia Supreme Court, statewide and local voluntary bar associations, and other interested groups and individuals to further encourage and support the development of additional pro bono services at the local, circuit, and regional level, including where appropriate and needed, the establishment of local, circuit, or regionally-based pro bono initiatives to identify unmet or emerging needs for pro bono legal services and to develop local, circuit, or regional plans to address unmet legal needs through pro bono legal services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the VSB make available to such interested groups and individuals, upon request, its resources, including technical assistance and information through its pro bono office; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the VSB periodically provide its members with the opportunity, through the annual dues statement or other means, to voluntarily report information about the nature and extent of their pro bono activities and other community service; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the VSB identify and employ appropriate opportunities to utilize any such information collected to inform the public of the outstanding work of Virginia lawyers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the VSB, in collaboration with statewide and local voluntary bar associations and other interested parties, work to secure appropriate public funding for civil and criminal representation of low-income Virginians, which is, in the final analysis, a responsibility of and a benefit to all Virginians.

Adopted by Council of the Virginia State Bar this 27th day of February, 1999.

Updated: Oct 16, 2006