About the Pro Bono Honor Roll

Administered by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, the Pro Bono Honor Roll each year recognizes those who meet the criteria for a certain number of pro bono hours during the designated time period.

The Pro Bono Honor Roll, administered by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, honors each year those law firms, solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government attorney offices, non-profit organizations, law school faculties and law students which certify that, in the relevant time period, they have met the following criteria. Those who so certify shall receive a letter of acknowledgement and appreciation for their commitment to pro bono legal work, and are listed on the court's website. Previous Pro Bono Honor Roll honorees are listed on the Prior Years Pro Bono Honor Rolls web page. This program is entirely voluntary.

The court will begin accepting completed Pro Bono Honor Roll Certification Forms for calendar year 2017 in late spring of 2018. Below is general information about the process.

Pro Bono Honor Roll criteria for attorneys and law firms

The SJC honors those law firms, solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government attorney offices, non-profit organizations, and law school faculties which certify that in the relevant calendar year, they have met the following criteria:

1. That the pro bono legal services(1)  hours per attorney, defined as the total number of pro bono hours provided by the Massachusetts Attorneys(2)  divided by the number of Massachusetts Attorneys (full-time equivalents), is at least fifty (50); or more than seventy-five percent (75%) of the Massachusetts Attorneys have provided at least twenty-five (25) pro bono hours;(3)

AND

2a. (for law firms and solo practitioners) That for purposes of attorney retention and promotion, time devoted to approved pro bono legal services is treated the same as time devoted to billable time or its equivalent. If billable hours are not strictly or solely used as a criteria for retention and promotion (e.g., contingency fee work or salaried positions), pro bono legal services hours are treated the same as time that is recognized for purposes of retention and promotion; and that for purposes of attorney compensation, time devoted to approved pro bono legal services up to at least fifty hours (50) per year is treated the same as time devoted to billable legal work or its equivalent. If billable hours are not strictly or solely used to measure compensation (e.g., contingency fee work or salaried positions), pro bono legal services are treated the same as time that is determinative of compensation;

or

2b. (for other organizations) An attorney may devote up to at least fifty (50) hours per year to pro bono services without any negative impact on the attorney’s compensation, retention or promotion opportunities.

The law firms, solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government attorney offices, non-profit organizations, and law schools which so certify shall receive a letter of acknowledgement and appreciation for their commitment to pro bono legal work, shall be listed on the Pro Bono Honor Roll web page on the Mass.gov website, and, if the certification is submitted within the deadline stated on the Pro Bono Honor Roll web page, will be invited to the recognition event at the John Adams Courthouse.

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(1) Pro bono legal services, as defined in Rule 6.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, mean the provision of legal services “without compensation or expectation or compensation to persons of limited means, or to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of person of limited means.”

(2) For purposes of this certification, a Massachusetts Attorney is defined as an attorney who has been admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, who works primarily in Massachusetts and is engaged primarily in the practice or the teaching of law within your organization.

(3) For law school faculties, the calculation divides the total number of pro bono hours performed by faculty who are Massachusetts Attorneys by the number of faculty who are Massachusetts Attorneys. For purposes of this calculation, work of clinical faculty members within the scope of their primary job duties shall be excluded from the calculation, although voluntary additional work within the scope of Rule 6.1 may be included. For non-profit agencies, the work of attorneys performing within the scope of their primary job duties shall be excluded from the calculation, although voluntary additional work within the scope of Rule 6.1 may be included.

Additional Resources

Pro Bono Honor Roll criteria for law students

The Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services modified its guidelines for determining how law students may qualify for the Pro Bono Honor Roll. In general a student must complete a minimum of fifty hours of pro bono service over the course of his or her law school career. Pro bono is defined as law-related services that: 1) are unpaid; and 2) serve the legal needs of individuals or groups with limited access to legal representation or who are underrepresented in the legal system. This work can be performed for a charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or educational organization. 

Learn more about Pro Bono Honor Roll requirements and certification process for law students.

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