By Sylvia Novinsky
Equal access to justice should exist for every individual, regardless of economic status. However, the 2021 Civil Legal Needs Assessment published by the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission and Equal Justice Alliance, in partnership with UNC Greensboro’s Center for Housing and Community Studies, revealed that 86% of North Carolinians are not able to get legal help. Legal aid providers are woefully underfunded, which means they cannot serve the majority of the people who qualify for their services. Those who qualify for legal aid certainly cannot afford an attorney’s average $250/hour fee, and what’s more, a large majority of the middle class who do not qualify for legal aid or any government funding, cannot afford it either. When those of modest means do not have access to adequate legal services, we fail to represent the principles of our profession.
Pro bono volunteering is essential to our mission to narrow the access to justice gap. Attorneys and paralegals have the unique privilege to help their communities through pro bono service. The NC Pro Bono Resource Center (PBRC) wishes to acknowledge and celebrate all the pro bono work being done by attorneys and paralegals statewide.
The PBRC is now accepting information about the activities encouraged by North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1: pro bono legal service; legal service at a substantially reduced fee; activity that improves the law, the legal system, or the legal profession; non-legal community service; and financial support of legal service providers.
To report your service, you must record the total number of pro bono legal service hours you provided in 2022 – this is the only activity from Rule 6.1 that leads to recognition through the North Carolina Pro Bono Honor Society. Questions about other activities from Rule 6.1 only require general information about participation. To submit an entry, you also need to include your North Carolina State Bar ID Number. You can report your hours. The deadline to report is March 31, 2023.
North Carolina licensed attorneys (or attorneys who provide services under North Carolina Pro Bono Practice Status) who report at least 50 hours of pro bono legal service in a year will be inducted into that year’s cohort of the North Carolina Pro Bono Honor Society and receive a certificate from the Supreme Court of North Carolina recognizing their achievements. You may elect to opt out of recognition if preferred. Additionally, law firms are encouraged to batch report for their attorneys and paralegals by using the Batch Reporting Form to submit pro bono information by March 31, 2023.
North Carolina paralegals may also report their pro bono information to the Pro Bono Resource Center. If paralegals report providing at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services in 2022, they will be recognized through the North Carolina Paralegal Pro Bono Honor Society. Paralegals interested in reporting can learn more and submit their information. Law firms are also encouraged to batch report their paralegals’ pro bono information using the same form as for their attorneys.
For more information about the Pro Bono Resource Center and voluntary pro bono reporting, please visit NC Pro Bono Resource Center’s website.
We are excited to celebrate your great pro bono work!