I will not reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the impoverished, the defenseless, or the oppressed.
I will endeavor always to advance the cause of justice....
-Arkansas Attorney's Oath
Attorneys play a major role in our system of civil justice. Providing pro bono services to people of limited means can mean the difference between justice for some and justice for all. Pro bono service is one of the most rewarding experiences in an attorney’s career. Helping someone who would otherwise go unrepresented can bring a great deal of career satisfaction.
In Arkansas, as the population of those living in poverty continues to rise, there is a critical, growing need for legal services. One out of every five of our fellow citizens is eligible for legal aid. You can help make the ideal of justice for all a reality in someone’s life today. Read a few examples of how our pro bono volunteers are doing that every day by visiting our Client Stories page.
The Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership was established to expand the pool of attorney volunteers to meet the civil legal needs of low-income Arkansans. It is the statewide registration and support system for the four regional pro bono organizations. Through this website the partnership provides legal information, such as the Poverty Law Manual and the Online Legal Library. We also provide form letters, pleadings and automated documents that you may customize for use in your pro bono and private practice. Additional benefits include secondary malpractice insurance coverage, CLE seminars at reduced rates and a monthly e-newsletter of available pro bono cases. You may view Pro Bono Resources here. After registering, volunteer attorneys work directly with the pro bono unit in their county service area.
The need for pro bono legal services has never been greater. As Arkansas’ poverty population grows, so does the need for representation of their interests. About 16% of Arkansas citizens live at or below the poverty level, compared to 12.4% nationwide. In the Delta area, fully 25% of the population lives in poverty. Meanwhile, federal funding for legal-services programs has continued to decrease, while the State of Arkansas provides no appropriation for civil legal services. Combined with the sizable, growing population of needy residents, this lack of resources creates a perfect storm of injustice. Private attorneys can help address these problems by volunteering.
The Ethical Obligation
In 2005, the Arkansas Supreme Court modified Arkansas Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 to include an aspirational goal of 50 hours of pro bono service per year. The new Rule clarified the types of cases and clients that qualify as pro bono assistance. The Rule also states that in addition to providing pro bono services, attorneys should make annual donations to the state legal services providers.
Many pro bono matters may be outside a private attorney’s area of expertise. The partnership provides a wealth of resources to help you develop your skills in new areas. You can feel a sense of confidence, and competence, when using the many forms, pleadings and automated documents we offer. You may access the Pro Bono Toolbox here.
If you are an existing member of one of the following organizations, then you are already a member of the Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership: AVLE, Equal Access to Justice Panel, River Valley Volunteer Attorney Project, or VOCALS.