According to the Oregon Legal Needs Study (2000), more than 470,000 low-income Oregonians cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation in civil matters. Recent studies increase that figure to over 600,000 Oregonians living in poverty today. Existing legal aid programs can help less than 20% of the need. In Multnomah County alone there are 110,000 low-income residents who simply cannot afford a lawyer. The need extends not only to low-income residents but also to civic, charitable and other public-service organizations.
In 1989, the members of the Oregon State Bar adopted an aspirational standard that each lawyer in Oregon should endeavor to perform 80 hours of pro bono services annually, including 20 to 40 hours, or two cases, in direct legal services to the poor. In addition, Section 4.4 of the OSB Statement of Professionalism states that it is a principle of professional practice to engage in pro bono activities, and that all lawyers share an obligation to make legal services available to all members of society.
Whether you are a new admittee, experienced attorney, litigator, transactional attorney, government attorney, in-house counsel, or member of the judiciary, the tremendous need for legal assistance translates into countless opportunities for all lawyers and legal professionals. Volunteer for short term projects, teach a class, give brief advice, or provided full client representation.
Many programs offer training materials and mentors if it is a subject that is outside of your typical practice areas. Some programs provide Professional Liability Fund (PLF) insurance coverage to volunteers.
If you cannot find an opportunity that fits with your experience, you can contact the organizations listed here to determine if you can design your own volunteer opportunity that uses your skills and meets the needs of the provider. Thank you for helping to provide legal services to all Oregon residents.
Consider Serving on a Pro Bono Committee
Serving on a pro bono committee is yet another way to provide pro bono service. These are a few of the pro bono committees in Oregon: [If your committee is not listed, please let us know!]