Pro Bono Working Group Report

  • February 15, 2003

WHEREAS the CBA has recognized that it is inherent in the professional responsibility of legal practitioners to voluntarily contribute an identifiable part of their time without charge or at substantially reduced rates: to establish or preserve the rights of disadvantaged individuals; to provide legal services to assist organizations who represent the interests of, or who work on behalf of, members of the community of limited means or other public interest organizations; or for the improvement of laws or the legal system;

WHEREAS the CBA has called for each member of the legal profession to strive to contribute 50 hours or 3% of billings per year on a pro bono basis;

WHEREAS the Pro Bono Working Group was formed in fall 2001, at the direction of CBA Council, to report on: the nature of pro bono work being performed by CBA members and how to recognize that work; the development of a business plan as to how the CBA should coordinate, facilitate and promote the pro bono work of its members; and methods of obtaining and sharing information about the pro bono initiative at the National and Branch levels;

WHEREAS pro bono work is not a substitute for adequate government funding of legal aid plans;

WHEREAS the CBA is best placed at the national level to undertake a role of facilitation and promotion of pro bono activities, and locally delivered pro bono programs are best placed to meet particular community needs;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Canadian Bar Association undertake the following activities to assist lawyers in meeting the goal of contributing 50 hours or 3% of billings per year on a pro bono basis:

  1. remove barriers to pro bono service by:
    1. developing model policies for law societies and their insurers, to permit E&O insurance coverage for pro bono work by lawyers who are otherwise exempt from insurance coverage (for example, public sector lawyers, corporate counsel, non-practising and retired lawyers); and
    2. encouraging each law society and its respective insurer to implement the necessary insurance coverage to permit insurance-exempt lawyers to act on a pro bono basis.
  2. develop model pro bono policies and checklists for law firms, and make them available to members on the CBA web site.
  3. create a clearinghouse on the CBA web site to inform members of best practices for pro bono delivery by different sectors (for example, for small and medium firms, young lawyers, or national firms).
  4. encourage its Branches to support pro bono activities in their respective jurisdictions, by:
    1. urging each Branch to explore, in cooperation with the law society and legal aid program in their jurisdiction, the feasibility of developing an Internet-based delivery system similar to that of ProBonoNet BC, where community groups can request legal services and lawyers can register to do pro bono work;
    2. providing assistance with funding applications for the cost of licence fees and development work, for smaller Branches that wish to opt into a web-based delivery system; and
    3. providing links from the CBA web site to provincial and territorial Internet-based pro bono initiatives.
    4. consult with National Sections to explore the need for specialized pro bono services in particular areas of law.
    5. encourage all law firms to adopt a pro bono policy and to support and promote pro bono service by their lawyers.
    6. encourage the Young Lawyers Conference to continue the Young Lawyers Pro Bono Award.
  5. encourage the Editorial Board of the CBA National magazine to consider publishing a "pro bono focus" issue, and profiles of lawyers doing pro bono work in each issue.
  6. undertake a regular survey of CBA members' pro bono activity, to document statistical and anecdotal information.
  7. promote a variety of delivery models to best meet local needs for pro bono services, and not endorse only a single delivery model.
  8. not directly fund pro bono clinics.
  9. create a Pro Bono Standing Committee with a mandate to implement this resolution, and to promote and facilitate pro bono service in the legal profession on an ongoing basis.
    1. the Chair of the Standing Committee shall be nominated by the Nominating Committee and elected by Council in accordance with the CBA By-Laws;
    2. each Branch shall name a member to the Standing Committee;
    3. the Chair of the Legal Aid Liaison Committee shall be an ex officio member of the Pro Bono Standing Committee, and vice versa; and
    4. the work of the Standing Committee shall be conducted predominately by conference call and e-mail.

Certified true copy of a resolution carried as amended by the Council of the Canadian Bar Association at the Mid-Winter Meeting held in Banff, AB February 14-16, 2003.

John D.V. Hoyles

Executive Director