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Report: Md. lawyers give 1M hours of pro bono service, $100K in funding

Of the nearly 40,000 lawyers licensed in Maryland, about 42 percent reported some pro bono activity, according to a Judiciary report. Among lawyers working in the state full-time, 53 percent did pro bono service. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Of the nearly 40,000 lawyers licensed in Maryland, about 42 percent reported some pro bono activity, according to a Judiciary report. Among lawyers working in the state full-time, 53 percent did pro bono service. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

The Maryland bar continues to increase its pro bono hours and funding of legal services organizations, according to a new report from the Judiciary.

Lawyers across the state donated more than 1 million hours in pro bono legal services to residents in need in 2016, a slight increase over 2015. One-time financial contributions to legal services organizations, meanwhile, topped $100,000 in 2016, an increase of 7.7 percent compared to 2015.

“Maryland lawyers should be proud of the contributions they make to their communities through pro bono work,” said Pam Ortiz, director of the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department. “That’s a significant amount.”

The data, released last week, comes from annual reports on pro bono service all Maryland attorneys are required to fill out under the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct. The report examining the data is published more than a year later to include as many responses as possible. Maryland is one of few states with this reporting requirement, according to Ortiz, whose office oversees the mandatory pro bono reporting process.

“This is about getting the information so we can strategize on how to meet more people,” she said.

Of the nearly 40,000 lawyers licensed in Maryland, about 42 percent reported some pro bono activity. Among lawyers working in the state full-time, 53 percent did pro bono service.

The new report found there needs to be a greater effort in the Maryland bar toward promoting pro bono service among those who do not do so already and to convince full-time lawyers to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono service. Of the lawyers who practice in Maryland full-time, 20 percent provided 50 or more hours of pro bono service, the report states.

But the report recognizes the hurdles to reaching that goal. First, Maryland lawyers work in smaller firms more than their peers in other states. Second, a large portion of Maryland lawyers serve in government or in practice areas that are not amenable to providing pro bono services.

Also, the types of law many attorneys practice does not always correlate to the areas that have the greatest legal need including family law, consumer law, housing law and public benefits, the report states.

“Attorneys are more likely to serve in areas where they have expertise,” Ortiz said.

Among the lawyers who provided pro bono service, 53 percent did so to people of limited means, 22 percent served nonprofit organizations and 17 percent served organizations that help low-income individuals and families, the report states.

When broken down by region, lawyers in rural areas have some of the highest levels of pro bono service. On the Eastern Shore, 71 percent of full-time lawyers reported some pro bono hours. In Western Maryland, 66 percent reported doing pro bono work, the report states.

“I think it’s because lawyers are known in those communities and people know to turn to them for assistance,” Ortiz said.

For five years in a row, financial contributions to legal services organizations and the number of lawyers who contribute has increased. Some of that may be attributed to the donation option added to the online reporting system in the 2011 reporting cycle. In total, more than 7,700 Maryland attorneys donated nearly $5 million to legal services organizations, according to the report.


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