Pro Bono Involvement of the State Bar of Michigan

The PBIC membership supports a wide range of pro bono activities throughout the state, including:

New Programs

    Additional programs were deemed eligible for donations from the Access to Justice fund (Bay Area Woman's Center, Student Advocacy Center) in a continuing effort to support the funding for pro bono work. To be eligible, programs must implement the provisions of the Voluntary Standard and at least 50% of the population they serve must be low-income.

Pro Bono Attorney Recognition

    Circle of Excellence—Acknowledgement of the pro bono contributions of attorneys and firms is one of the primary functions of the PBIC. The Circle of Excellence is a listing that is periodically published by the Bar in recognition of the pro bono services that firms and corporations across Michigan donate throughout the year. The list includes both small and large organizations. The PBIC publicly acknowledges the pro bono work of the firms/corporations by listing them in the Michigan Bar Journal. These firms and corporations have adopted a formal written pro bono policy encouraging their attorneys to do pro bono work. The committee asks the firm/corporation to document that it has complied with the Voluntary Standard for Pro Bono participation and/or that it will make a good faith effort to comply with the Standard in the upcoming year. In order to be listed on the Circle of Excellence a law firm is required to complete an application and must be certified that it has provided financial donations or legal services to bring every lawyer in the firm into compliance with the Standard. The firms must reapply each year.

    Cummiskey Award—Each year the committee selects and recommends to the Board of Commissioners an outstanding attorney to receive the John W. Cummiskey Award. This award is named after the late Grand Rapids attorney to recognize a member of the Bar who has made outstanding pro bono contributions. The 2002 Cummiskey Award was presented to Margaret Costello of Dykema Gossett at the State Bar annual meeting held in Grand Rapids.

    Nomination for American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award—The PBIC took the opportunity to nominate Margaret Costello of the firm Dykema Gossett for the Pro Bono Publico Award of the ABA in recognition of her contributions to pro bono work in Michigan.

    Donor Giving Club—As a part of continuing efforts to recognize the contributions of attorneys the PBIC will publish the list of Access to Justice Giving Club members as another acknowledgement of their support. The goal is to highlight the financial contributions of large firms. It will be published at least once each year in the Bar Journal.

    Recognition of Individual Pro Bono Attorneys—The Honor Roll was developed by the committee last year to recognize the work of individual attorneys. However, as a result of limited staff resources it is currently being replaced by a commitment to encourage recognition of these efforts by local programs. The future of the Honor Roll is to be determined at a later date.

Annual Meeting

    The format of the Annual Meeting for 2002 was altered substantially from previous years. The Pro Bono Breakfast was no longer held as a specific event. The Cummiskey Award was presented at the morning breakfast session. Members of the PBIC were present to acknowledge the recipients' contributions.

Support of Pro Bono Activities

    The PBIC continues to explore ways to support pro bono activities statewide. The PBIC has been active in the following areas:
  • Re-activating the Michigan Pro Bono Coordinators Association (MPBCA)
  • Supporting pro se efforts across the state
  • Supporting the exploration and development of Legal Assistance Section and other Bar Sections pro bono efforts
  • Improving MI-LAPP data intake methodology by implementing the PIKA web based intake pilot project
  • Continuing efforts to define a role for the Attorney General's office in pro bono services
  • Supporting and promoting court based legal assistance centers that provide assistance to clients on site and give pro bono opportunities to attorneys, who provide staffing for the center
  • Exploring ways to expand representation, including representation with a significant pro bono component, for currently underserved populations, including immigrants and prisoners

Development of Policies on Pro Bono Issues

    The PBIC has continued to develop policies which facilitate and support pro bono participation by Michigan lawyers. Policy issues addressed during the past year include:

    Reviewing the Michigan ethics rules relating to pro bono and public service in light of the proposed new ABA ethics rules and preparing comments on these rules for consideration by the Access to Justice Task Force.

    Continuing to work with the Access to Justice Task Force, the Legal Aid Committee, the ATJ Development Campaign, and other relevant Bar committees with the goal that the Bar's overall approach to the delivery of services to the poor will integrate direct delivery, fundraising, and pro bono strategies.

    Developing a policy statement that recognizes volunteer work at court based pro se centers as pro bono work under the Standard.

Collaboration With the Open Justice Commission

    The PBIC worked with State Bar staff to support the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts held April 9-11, 2003. A breakout session titled Legal Service Delivery for Special Populations focused on activities that PBIC has been involved with in expanding services to these populations through the use of pro bono lawyers. Presentations included:
    • A discussion of immigration activities by Thomas Basset a founding director of the Strategic Partnership of Michigan, established to coordinate court based pro bono immigration legal services.
    • A presentation by John Johnson Deputy Director and Chief Executive Officer for the Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. (LAD) about collaborative efforts between the NAACP and LAD to address the problem of predatory lending in Detroit.
    • A discussion of the Domestic Violence Training being held in May by Amy Smiley a member of the planning committee that described the purpose and goals of the training, the second of its kind sponsored by the Open Justice Committee of the State Bar of Michigan

    The PBIC is also represented on the planning committee that is responsible for developing the second Pro Bono Training for Domestic Violence that is being held in May in partnership with the Open Justice Committee.

Michigan Litigation Assistance Partnership Programs (MI-LAPP)

    The objective of MI-LAPP is to increase civil legal assistance for low income individuals by linking the litigation and non-litigation resources of large law firms and corporate law departments with legal service programs to handle complex cases, cases restricted by funding sources, and to assist not-for-profit organizations in transactional work. This gives an opportunity for the attorneys in large firms and corporate law departments to handle pro bono cases that are comparable in substance and form to matters these attorneys handle for paying clients. Complicated appeals, pension matters, drafting of corporate (non-profit) documents, real estate litigation, intellectual property advice, tax litigation and other matters are referred through MI-LAPP. The program is managed cooperatively by the staff of the State Bar's Access to Justice Program, the Michigan Poverty Law Program and Community Legal Resources, a community economic development project of Michigan Legal Services

    MI-LAPP Cases—The program increased the number of cases closed substantially during 2002. There were 149 cases opened and 127 closed as compared to the previous year in which 80 cases were opened and 33 cases were closed. The criteria for intake of cases at the State Bar of Michigan was broadened, and state wide the participating programs served more clients. In June, MI-LAPP also sponsored a training program for the completion of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) with the goal of expanding the pool of attorneys able to complete them.

Malpractice Insurance Policy

    Last year through the help of funding from the University of Michigan Law School/Michigan Poverty Law Program, the State Bar of Michigan was able to provide pro bono attorneys who were not covered through legal services programs malpractice coverage. The State Bar of Michigan was able to renew the coverage again this year.