Overview of the National Celebration of Pro Bono


Building on the momentum generated by the past twelve annual celebrations, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is encouraging even greater participation by lawyers throughout the nation. Every participant and sponsoring entity is encouraged to think strategically about local needs, local programs, and local issues, and then to plan and take the next step in providing access to justice for poor and vulnerable people. The Committee is committed to providing participants with planning assistance, the services of a consultant, and the multitude of resources available on this website. All are encouraged to contact us at celebrateprobono@americanbar.org with any planning needs.


When the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service announced its plans for the first National Celebration of Pro Bono questions were raised about the value of a nationally coordinated strategy for recognizing pro bono across the country. The Pro Bono Committee believed strongly that the initiative, focusing on local projects held during a designated timeframe, would capture the interest and energy of the legal community. That confidence has born fruit: in the past three years, hundreds of event sponsors and individuals supported and coordinated more than 2000 exciting and well-attended events in 48 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and Canada.

The confluence of two circumstances made the timing of the National Celebration of Pro Bono particularly important: the increasing need for pro bono services as economic conditions worsened, and the unprecedented response of attorneys to meet this need. Although national in breadth, this initiative provides an opportunity for legal organizations across the country to collaboratively commemorate the vitally important contributions of America's lawyers and to recruit and train the many additional volunteers required to meet the growing demand.

The Pro Bono Committee undertook this initiative to provide a format for showcasing the incredible difference that pro bono lawyers make to our nation, to our system of justice, to our communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve. With the enthusiastic involvement of national, statewide and local partners, from all components of the legal profession, the National Pro Bono Celebration is creating a wave of positive energy about the pro bono movement in this country. Pro bono lawyers have been recruited and trained, new projects were started, volunteers were recognized for their outstanding service, law students were exposed to the power of pro bono and new partnerships were developed. There was an outpouring of positive media exposure about lawyers, the legal profession, the American Bar Association and the legal services community in the printed press and on radio, television and the internet.

The 2009 week was capped by a letter from President Barack Obama recognizing the important contributions of pro bono lawyers in providing access to justice for those living on the social margins. In his letter of October 30, 2009, the President observed that, "Pro bono lawyers work tirelessly to break down barriers to opportunity and justice, volunteering countless hours to provide critical legal services to our most vulnerable citizens." The National Celebration of Pro Bono helps to spread this important message to communities throughout America.

Nearly 70% of the events held in the past two years were either direct service clinics, volunteer training and recruitment events, or new initiative launches. The Celebration is an important vehicle for broadening and deepening services to Americans living on the social margins.