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May 12, 2009
Ohio Attorneys Report 123,000 Hours of Pro Bono Work in 2008

Tough economic times in 2008 did not dampen the spirit of Ohio attorneys to perform pro bono work, according to the results of Ohio’s first cycle of voluntary, anonymous reporting of pro bono activities.

The Supreme Court of Ohio, working in conjunction with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), asked lawyers in January to voluntarily and anonymously report their pro bono activities and financial support for legal aid programs in 2008. The voluntary pro bono reporting program, referred to as “Justice in Action,” provides information used to identify gaps in the delivery of legal services and to strengthen the network of services available to Ohioans in need.

Twelve percent (4,269) of the state’s 35,000 attorneys on “active” status who received an electronic invitation to participate in the process reported information. About 61 percent of those who responded to the invitation reported pro bono work last year totaling slightly more than 123,000 hours, which equaled an average of about 49 hours per attorney.

Using an average hourly rate of $135, Ohio attorneys who chose to report their pro bono service for 2008 contributed more than $16.6 million in legal services to low-income Ohioans. The most common areas where attorneys offered their legal expertise for free included housing-related matters, family law matters, consumer matters and employment matters.

As far as financial contributions for 2008, nearly 900 attorneys reported contributing about $700,000 during the year for an average contribution of $775 per attorney.

“These results show the generous spirit of Ohio’s legal profession,” said Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer. “Far too many Ohioans cannot afford legal assistance, especially in the current economic downturn, but attorneys willing to work pro bono provided a legal lifeline in 2008.”

“OLAF is grateful to those attorneys who chose to report their pro bono activities,” said Jane Taylor, OLAF associate director for pro bono. “This valuable data will help the legal aid delivery system as it directs its precious resources to areas of greatest need.”

Responses from the 2008 survey will be used to fine-tune the survey to generate a greater response rate, although the 12 percent rate compares favorably to those in other states, some of whom have had voluntary reporting mechanisms for years. OLAF will work in conjunction with the Court to compile and report the information collected to bar associations, legal services organizations and other interested parties throughout Ohio.

In September 2007, the Supreme Court issued its “Statement Regarding the Provision of Pro Bono Legal Services by Ohio Lawyers,” urging them to “engage in new or additional pro bono opportunities.” In addition, the Court announced its intention to document the efforts of the legal profession to ensure equal access to justice by working with OLAF.

Contact: Chris Davey or Bret Crow at 614.387.9250.