The State Bar of Michigan invites all law firms of two or more attorneys to apply for the 2013 Pro Bono Circle of Excellence, which recognizes every firm that fully complied with the State Bar's Voluntary Pro Bono Standard during 2012. The application deadline is March 29, 2013.
Both volunteer legal services for low-income individuals and organizations and financial support for eligible nonprofit organizations providing free civil legal aid for the poor are included in the Voluntary Pro Bono Standard.
The Standard calls for lawyers to annually take three pro bono cases, devote at least 30 hours of pro bono service, or make a monetary contribution to a legal aid provider organization. Contributions to the Access to Justice Fund count toward fulfilling the Standard.
"Firm participation in the Circle of Excellence has been a signature feature of the State Bar's commitment to access to justice," SBM President Bruce Courtade said. "Strong pro bono and financial support for legal aid continues to be a priority item for the State Bar and its members, especially because the funding cuts to legal aid continue and have been worsened by the sequestration situation we are in."
The State Bar's current policies regarding Circle of Excellence criteria can be found on the Access to Justice website. Applications for the 2013 Circle are based on the original Voluntary Pro Bono Standard that has been in effect since 1990. The Voluntary Standard was recently amended to increase the annual financial contribution from $300 to $500 for those whose income allows a higher contribution. The updated Voluntary Standard can also be seen at the Access to Justice website. Pro bono work and financial contributions that comply with the updated standard during the 2013 calendar year will be recognized differently for the 2014 Circle of Excellence.
The Circle of Excellence is published frequently in the Michigan Bar Journal, posted on the SBM and the Michigan State Bar Foundation websites, and distributed at the SBM Annual Meeting. Apply for the Pro Bono Circle of Excellence. For more information, contact Robert Mathis at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 346-6412.