In this edition of Robinson+Cole’s Pro Bono At a Glance newsletter we look back on a number of the accomplishments, successes and feel-good stories that have come out of the pro bono services our lawyers have provided over the last several months. Since the new year, dozens of R+C volunteers have dedicated hundreds of hours to serve the legal needs of individuals and institutions without ready access to the justice system. Despite these efforts, the unmet need for pro bono legal services is pronounced in the best of times.
As I write, a vastly wider swath of our neighbors, small local business and non-profit providers are confronting an uncertain and, in many cases, frightening future – one that will create an unprecedented demand for attorneys to volunteer their time and skills to navigate. Many of the legal needs occasioned by COVID-19 and its impacts are immediate. Some of these are novel, such as non-profits addressing employment issues related to an entire workforce now working remotely, pro bono litigants facing extensive delays in court proceedings, and force majeure claims in non-profit projects due to virus-related work stoppages. Others are more routine but present in overwhelming numbers, such as bankruptcy and unemployment claims.
The pro bono needs that will emerge after the immediate crisis wains remain to be seen. What is certain is that the number of deserving pro bono clients and matters will only increase. While this presents a daunting challenge to non-profit and low-income communities, it presents pro bono attorneys with an unprecedented opportunity to help meet those legal needs. The Pro Bono Committee is hard at work on the formation of a COVID-19 small business clinic program. Details to follow shortly!
We all will be called on in the days, weeks and months ahead to give of ourselves in ways we could not have imagined even a short time ago. As attorneys and legal providers, we possess unique skills that can assist our pro bono clients in navigating this uncertain future. The Pro Bono Committee will continue to identify worthy clients and matters and match those with our attorneys. We all will individually come across potential pro bono matters as we navigate a return to normalcy. Each should be considered. This crisis will no doubt serve as an inflection point for legal service providers as we evaluate our collective and individual pro bono efforts, let alone our own practices. Let us keep our under-represented and underserved communities in mind as we meet the challenges - and opportunities - that will face us all.
Peter R. Knight
Partner, Chair Pro Bono Committee