The State Bar of Michigan invites all law firms of two or more attorneys to apply for the 2012 Pro Bono Circle of Excellence, which recognizes every firm that fully complied with the State Bar's Voluntary Pro Bono Standard during 2011. The application deadline is March 31,
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 to pro bono service, or make a monetary contribution to a legal aid provider organization.
Contributions to the Access to Justice Fund (Access to Justice Fund) count toward fulfilling the Standard.
"Full firm compliance with the Voluntary Standard has traditionally helped us address the unmet legal needs of the poor and it demonstrates the strong partnership that exists between civil legal aid providers and the private bar," SBM President Julie Fershtman said. "Strong pro bono and financial support for legal aid is even more important this year in light of the significant new funding cuts that legal aid has sustained."
The State Bar's current policies regarding Circle of Excellence criteria can be found at Circle of Excellence Criteria. Applications for the 2012 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 Standard can be seen at Updated Pro Bono Standard. More information about qualifying for the Circle of Excellence under the revised Standard in the future will be available soon.
The Circle of Excellence is published frequently in the Michigan Bar Journal, posted on the State Bar's and the Michigan State Bar Foundation's websites, and is distributed at the State Bar's Annual Meeting. For more information, contact Rob Mathis, firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 346-6412.