It’s out and here. It was well worth waiting for, with many recommendations that go way beyond the traditional formulaic praise of pro bono to engage what needs to be done.
I thought it might be worthwhile to highlight and comment on just a few of the things that stood out for me — reading this is not a substitute for reading the whole Report, or at least the Executive Summary, which is three (large) pages long.
Creation of an organization of pro bono professionals who work at LSC funded program. (at p 3.) This could go a long way to creating a stronger culture of quality within the pro bono world.
Pro Bono Incubation Fund (at page 3). We have learned from TIG that competitive discretionary grant programs can be highly successful not just at developing new models, but at facilitating adoption systemwide. It is important to recognize that TIG has been brilliantly led, and has had a clear vision to guide that leadership. As anyone who has been to a TIG Conference knows, TIG gas always been much more than a funder and the Pro Bono Incubation Fund would need the same kind of leadership.
Evaluation of Pro Bono Programs (at page 4). The report is honest that such evaluation efforts are in the “early stages.” I have felt that the strong political resonance that pro bono has may be a contributing factor in the relative lack of evaluation of pro bono. In fact, however, this support should make it all the more urgent. The uniform support for pro bono means that the (to my mind wrong) argument that we should be cautious about evaluating pro bono just does not apply. Moreover, were evaluation to show that significant investments in pro bono would yield dividends, it would be much easier to raise additional funds for expansion of such approaches, that it would be in other areas of innovation.
Using Pro Bono Lawyers to Support Self-Help Services. (at page 12). The report details several examples, and this is indeed a powerful area of collaboration, in part because it allows lawyers to make small controllable commitments of time.
Technology/Pro Bono Website. (at page 14). This is in part “back to the future,” since early in the history of TIG there was a greater emphasis on ensuring that all states included pro bono in their advocacy sites.
Revision of PAI Regulations. The current regs are needlessly restrictive, and the Report makes a number of good suggestions about allowing use of the PAI set-aside for things such as “supervising and training law students, law graduates, deferred associates, and others.” Not everyone realizes that PAI is a regulation, not in the statute or appropriation language, so can be changed relatively easily. A word of caution, it is important that the regulation not be so relaxed that the 12.5% support functions that are really part of the non-pro bono system. (I personally do not think that 12.5% of management should automatically be billed to PAI.)
Hiring LSC staff person. (at page 28). This person would work to strengthen grantee pro bono efforts, and would have a major impact on the other elements recommended in the Report.