From the Multnomah Lawyer: Let’s Celebrate 30 Years of Oregon Leading the Way on Pro Bono

The annual Pro Bono Fair and associated Celebration and free CLE seminars will take place this year on Thursday, October 24 at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland. Celebrate not only the most recent winners of Oregon’s Pro Bono Challenge but also 30 years of Oregon leading the way on pro bono. This is a triple pro bono anniversary year - the 30th anniversary of the OSB Pro Bono Aspirational Standard, the 20th anniversary of the Pro Bono Challenge Awards, and the 15th anniversary of the first Oregon Pro Bono Honor Roll.

On October 27, 1989, the Oregon Pro Bono Aspirational Standard was adopted at the OSB Annual Meeting. Although the general concept that it is an honorable thing for attorneys to take on pro bono work has long been part of the profession, having bar associations explicitly say lawyers should do pro bono work was new.

“Each lawyer in Oregon should endeavor to perform 80 hours of pro bono services annually. Of this total, the lawyer should endeavor to devote 20 to 40 hours or to handle two cases involving the direct provision of legal services to the poor, without an expectation of compensation. If a lawyer is unable to provide direct legal services to the poor, the lawyer should endeavor to make a comparable financial contribution to an organization that provides or coordinates the provision of direct legal services to the poor.” The Oregon State Bar Aspirational Standard: OSB Bylaw 13.1

Inspired in part by Oregon’s aspirational standard and in part by similar efforts in a handful of other states, the American Bar Association developed their Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1. From that model rule, pro bono aspirational standards have been adopted in most states.

On September 30, 1999, nine years and 11 months after the Aspirational Standard was adopted, the Oregon New Lawyers Division of the OSB presented the first Oregon Pro Bono Challenge Awards, recognizing the attorneys and firms who gave the most time to pro bono in the prior year, 1998. The concept was simple: recognition for pro bono work inspires more pro bono work and lets lawyers know they are not alone in their efforts to help provide justice for all.

In 2004, the OSB conducted its first membership-wide collection of voluntary reports of pro bono time provided in the prior year. Attorneys who met the aspirational standard were listed in the Bar Bulletin as part of the Pro Bono Honor Roll. In the first year, 96 attorneys reported meeting the aspirational standard. This year, 312 reported meeting the standard.

The data from pro bono reports made between 2004 and 2019 shows the commitment Oregon attorneys have to justice for all. During that period, Oregon attorneys have given time worth over $161 million to pro bono work. The data also shows that when times get tough, Oregon attorneys step up. Between 2007 and 2008, as the economy collapsed into the great recession, the amount of time Oregon attorneys gave to direct representation pro bono work nearly doubled and remained significantly elevated through 2012.

This is the 30th anniversary of the day Oregon attorneys decided that lawyers should do pro bono work; we now know that when given a goal to aspire to, Oregon attorneys rise to the challenge.

To celebrate this milestone, join us on Thursday, October 24, at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland. Three free CLEs will be presented in the afternoon:

  • New Statewide Tenant Protections and Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Housing Clinic - beginning at 2 p.m. 
  • Sustainable Pro Bono Advocacy: Why Caring for Yourself While Providing Trauma-Informed Assistance to Your Client is Critical - beginning at 2:30 p.m.
  • New Innovations in Corporate Pro Bono: How In- House Lawyers at Amazon, Hewlett Packard, Nike and Other Leading Corporations are Creating New Paths for Access to Justice – beginning at 3 p.m.
At 5 p.m. there will be a reception, awards ceremony, and pro bono opportunity fair. Chief Justice Martha Walters will present the Pro Bono Challenge Awards and OSB President Christine Costantino will recognize the firms, lawyers, and law students who gave the most time to pro bono in the prior year.

To register for the CLEs, please contact Laura Greer at the OSB,

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