Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ohio Supreme Court documenting state's Pro Se work

The prodigy of Henry Campbell Black describe pro bono activities as “being or involving uncompensated legal services performed, especially for the public good,” and former American Bar Association President Jerome Shestack, ten years ago back in August 1998, included them among his six determinant components of legal professionalism along with “ethics and integrity, competence combined with independence of judgment, and meaningful continuing learning, civility, and obligations to the justice system.”

Our principle interests here are with Ohio and that story starts in August 1989 with Ohio Supreme Court’s formation of a committee to examine creeds of professionalism adopted by other states and charging it with the task of assembling information “that would raise the consciousness of attorneys regarding their individual & collective responsibilities to maintain a high level of professionalism.” The work of that committee led, in 1992, to the formation of the Supreme Court of Ohio Commission on Professionalism, which – in 1997—adopted a Statement of Professionalism, Lawyer’s Creed, and A Lawyer’s Aspirational Ideals, also amending continuing education requirements to include at least an hour of instruction biennially relating to professionalism and including the topics just mentioned. Pro bono activities were part of that package.

In September 2007, underscoring “the important obligation attorneys have in facilitating public access to justice, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a statement encouraging attorneys to regularly provide pro bono legal services and report those activities. That statement was published in booklet form along with the Statement of Professionalism.

This morning the Supreme Court announced a new program designed to gather “meaningful information about the extent & nature of pro bono work in Ohio and encourage activity to aid those in need of free legal services. (Here)

Under a joint project of the Supreme Court and Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), which the Court has regularly allocated funds to to aid in the development & coordination of pro bono activities in Ohio since 2003, Ohio attorneys will be being asked in January to voluntarily and anonymously report pro bono activities and financial support for legal aid programs this past year. The information will be used to identify gaps in the delivery of legal services in order to strengthen the network of services available to Ohioans in need.

Ohio Supreme Court’s Pro Bono statement

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