FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Anita Aboulafia (212) 267-6646, ext. 225 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NYCLA ADOPTS PRO BONO DEFINITION
October 26, 2004 – New York, NY – The New York County Lawyers’ Association’s (NYCLA) Board of Directors has adopted a “Policy Statement Concerning Pro Bono Publico Service,” which contains a comprehensive and expansive definition of pro bono. The NYCLA statement urges all lawyers to render pro bono legal service, and “to the maximum extent possible,” service benefiting indigent individuals. At the same time, NYCLA’s definition encompasses services rendered to low- and middle-income individuals, as well as to organizations that provide pro bono services to secure or protect civil liberties or public rights.
NYCLA crafted its definition in response to action by the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) House of Delegates, which had agreed with an earlier report released by NYCLA regarding pro bono activities. That report urged the adoption of a more expansive definition of pro bono than the one promulgated by the Unified Court System (UCS) in its “Report on the Future of Pro Bono in New York State,” released in January.
According to Norman L. Reimer, NYCLA President, “NYCLA believes that a constricted definition of pro bono may cause a decline in many existing, valuable programs that serve countless individuals who otherwise would not have access to counsel.” Mr. Reimer noted that “many of NYCLA’s programs, as well as those of other bar groups and countless individual attorneys that address urgent societal needs, would not qualify under a formulation that defines pro bono as only that which benefits those who satisfy a technical definition of indigency.”
Mr. Reimer added, “NYCLA’s definition celebrates the wide range of pro bono service provided by New York attorneys, while underscoring that the most urgent need and the highest priority should be to serve the indigent. But those who lack the training and experience to provide such services may nevertheless provide invaluable pro bono service to society. That service should be encouraged and recognized.”
The NYCLA statement also calls upon lawyers to advocate for the allocation of public resources to provide access to counsel for the indigent and persons of limited means and notes that lawyers are uniquely qualified to identify those areas in which public support is lacking.
Finally, the statement reaffirms NYCLA’s view that pro bono service must remain voluntary and not subject to involuntary public disclosure. President Reimer noted that “for many people, pro bono service, just like other charitable work, is a private matter reflecting spiritual values that should be completely exempt from institutional intrusion.”
To read NYCLA’s pro bono policy statement, log on to www.nycla.org and click on publications and then on NYCLA Reports and Resolutions. [The pro bono policy statement is also an attachment to this release.]
The New York County Lawyers’ Association was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, NYCLA has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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