Many lawyers spend hours of free time and donate out of pocket each year to assist individuals who otherwise couldn’t afford legal representation or have their voice heard by the justice system. It’s called pro bono, and it’s one way that attorneys do their part to help make their communities better.
Lawyers are not required to perform this service, but The Florida Bar is proud of the thousands of its members who do give so freely. In 2014-15, the last year reported, Florida Bar members collectively contributed $5.2 million to legal aid organizations and donated more than 1.7 million hours of free legal service.
Every January, in a ceremonial session of the Florida Supreme Court, more than two dozen lawyers and judges are honored by the court and The Florida Bar for the free legal assistance they have provided. For each of these members of The Florida Bar, as well as a law firm and a voluntary bar association, this is a meaningful acknowledgement of the many hours of pro bono work they have performed to help children, victims of human trafficking, the elderly, refugees, the poor and countless others who wouldn’t be able to afford the legal assistance they so badly need.
The 2017 pro bono service awards ceremony will take place at the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
The road to this annual ceremony begins now, with a call for nominations. The Florida Bar and the Supreme Court invite nominations from legal aid groups, civic organizations, fellow lawyers and regular citizens who know of a special lawyer, judge, law firm or voluntary bar that has freely given of time and expertise in making legal services available to the poor.
Nominations must be received by Nov. 9. Nomination forms are available at www.floridabar.org/ProBonoAwards for the following award categories:
The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award
Presented annually by the chief justice to a lawyer to recognize extraordinary contributions in ensuring the availability of legal services to the poor. Named for the late Miami civil rights lawyer Tobias Simon, the award represents the Supreme Court’s highest recognition of a private lawyer for pro bono service. All current recipients of The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Awards are considered for this prestigious award, as are direct nominees who have demonstrated exemplary pro bono service over the course of their careers.
The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award
This award is given to an outstanding attorney for each of the state’s 20 judicial circuits and to an outstanding attorney among the out-of-state Florida Bar members.
The Law Firm Commendation
This statewide award, presented by the chief justice, recognizes a law firm that has demonstrated a significant contribution in the provision of pro bono legal services to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford the services. This award recognizes extraordinary commitment on the part of a law firm to provide access to the courts for all Floridians.
The Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award
Presented by the chief justice, this award recognizes a voluntary bar association that has demonstrated a significant contribution in the delivery of legal services on a pro bono basis to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford the services. This award recognizes an extraordinary commitment to provide access to the courts for all Floridians.
The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award
With 26,000 members, the Young Lawyers Division includes all lawyers in good standing under age 36 and all new Florida Bar members of any age for their first five years in practice. The award is given to the division member who best exemplifies the highest ideals of public service.
The Distinguished Judicial Service Award
Presented by the chief justice, this award is given for outstanding and sustained service to the public, especially as it relates to support of pro bono legal services.
Distinguished Federal Judicial Service Award
This award, presented by the chief justice, recognizes an active or retired federal judge for outstanding and sustained service to the public, whether through legal or civic service or a combination of them, especially as it relates to the support of pro bono legal services.
Nominees’ pro bono service contributions may be cumulative. Consideration is not limited to the events of the immediate past year.
For additional information, contact public information coordinator Mark Hohmeister at The Florida Bar, 1-850-561-5764, or firstname.lastname@example.org.