Monday, September 04, 2006

ABA Publishes Report (Aug, 2006) "Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession"

The American Bar Association, through its Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession, has issued its final study and recommendation report bearing the same name, "Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession". The report is found online here.

The report should be interesting to law students who will enter the legal profession, to lawyers who grapple with the economics of practice versus the desire to perform pro bono services to the public or the indigent, and to consumers, including the elderly, who are unable to pay for legal services.

This Commission was formed in August, 2005, to address "two independent but interrelated concerns: the increasing demand for lawyers to help alleviate the unmet need for legal services for the poor, and the profound changes within the legal profession that have made it harder and harder for lawyers to answer the call to service."

The question to be answered was: "[W]hy do we need a Renaissance of Idealism?" The initial answer was presented by the state of law practice today:

"We need it because the demands of law practice are making it harder and harder for lawyers to continue to perform these vital roles. Too many enter the profession eager to make a difference, only to become frustrated and disillusioned as they find that they lack the time to do so. If this situation is to change, lawyers must be able to strike a better balance in their lives and law practices."
The Commission states that "the key to that balance is persuading the decision makers in America’s law offices to free up time for lawyers to volunteer their skills to those in need, to help improve their communities, and in the process to find greater satisfaction in their legal careers."

The results of the year-long project are described by the ABA's President, Michael S. Greco, as follows:
The Commission has developed a series of policy recommendations to advance pro bono and public service in all practice settings; presented programs and distributed materials at dozens of bar meetings and conferences; placed numerous articles in legal and bar publications; developed an online Pro Bono and Public Service Best Practices Guide; and produced and distributed an engaging video featuring the Commission’s Honorary Co-Chairs, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Theodore C. Sorensen, special counsel to President John F. Kennedy, as well as ABA Past President Dennis W. Archer. The Commission has communicated with every state and local bar association and ABA section. It has distributed materials to the managing partners of 700 major law firms, the general counsel of 500 corporations, the deans of every ABA accredited law school, and the general counsel of every federal government agency to solicit their ideas and enlist their participation in the Renaissance. Through this comprehensive outreach effort, the Commission has made great strides in reinvigorating the profession’s commitment to pro bono and public service.
The full text of the Renaissance Commission’s policy recommendations can be found beginning on page 11 of the Report. These recommendations require approval from the ABA's governing bodies for implementation.