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New Web Site Matches Lawyers with Pro Bono Openings

Thursday, October 18, 2007

  • By: Matthew Hirsch
  • Organization: The Recorder and www.callaw.com
  • Source: California

The Santa Clara County Bar Association launched a Web site Friday to help boost pro bono participation in the South Bay legal community.

The site, called ProBonoMatch.org, gives attorneys five ways to sort through volunteer service opportunities, such as by practice area or the location where services are needed. The site also lets lawyers communicate directly with legal service agencies in the area, instead of listing contact information and forcing people to pick up the phone.

Bar association Executive Director Christine Burdick, who helped design the Web site, said usability was the key.

"We were most concerned about being able to provide information to attorneys in a format that they could get to quickly and easily, and that they could respond to right then and there," she said.

Another feature on the site lets lawyers see which colleagues have pledged to work at least 60 pro bono hours a year, and to donate the cash equivalent of at least one billable hour to legal service groups. Law firms can pledge to do their best to ensure similar commitments by their local lawyers, and to report those hours to the bar association each year.

At the time the ProBonoMatch Web site went live, only six firms had signed the pledge: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Bingham McCutchen; DLA Piper; Fenwick & West; Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel; and K&L Gates.

Bar association leaders are hoping other firms will soon follow their lead.

"It's important to show leadership in this area," said Fenwick's Patrick Premo, a member of the bar association's Pro Bono Implementation Committee. "I hope that having law firm names on [the Web site] will encourage others to sign up."

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