The Pro Bono Conundrum


“The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice.  He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed.”  Isa. 59:16

I wonder if God shares the big profit concerns of large law firms.  This week’s lead story in Craine’s Chicago Business was on the widening justice gap in America and the failure of big firms to step into the gap.  For these firms the issue is profit.

Part of the problem is the big firm’s concerns over conflict of interest as they represent big banks, lenders, employers and others against the poor and vulnerable.  While the ethical rules intentionally try to balance the scales of justice, big firms don’t want to offend big money.

As reported in the article another problem is the mismatch between the types of volunteer cases big firms want to take on and the actual needs of poor people.  Big firms actually post high pro bono hours but rarely do any of those hours translate to helping a poor person in need of housing, consumer or family issues.  Instead the big firms like the headline cases – civil rights cases or death penalty cases.  Important yes, but not helpful to the more than 4,300 people turned away from services every day in America.  As the article quoted, “These firms don’t want to take average cases.  There’s no benefit.”

The justice gap continues to widen.  America is tied with Pakistan at 65th in the world for providing access to justice – 65th! We should be number 1.  The poverty figures released this week continue to highlight a divided America.  Women earn 79% of what men make.  Median income for blacks is $25,000 less than for whites.  People are working longer hours for the same amount of pay.  Add to this tight economic reality any crisis – loss of job, health issue, divorce, fraud, identity theft – and suddenly one finds themselves on the road of poverty.  A road shared by more than 48 million Americans.  And many more cannot afford to hire an attorney to help them get back on a more secure road.

Churches have thrown food, blankets and benevolence at the problem, but with little impact.  Why?  Because people don’t need a hand out, they need a hand up.  They don’t need a tenth of the church’s dill, mint and cumin.  They need justice, mercy and faithfulness.  Mt. 23:23.

The Lord was displeased with Israel when He looked and found no justice.  He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed.  Is America any different?  Let’s stop expecting big government and big firms to do the work of people of faith.  Let’s stop making excuses for why we walk past our neighbors in need on the Jericho road.  Let’s do something.

Do you know a lawyer?  Encourage them to connect with us.  We can do the heavy lifting to help them use their gifts to serve the poor.

Do you know a pastor?  Tell them you are tired of band-aid assistance and want to go deeper.  Tell them you want to do justice.

Are you frustrated with the status quo?  Sick of injustice?  Want to use your time to not just make money, but make a difference?  We need you.  We need an army of advocates willing to stand in the gap.  Every army begins with one.  Don’t delay.  Don’t pass by the opportunity.

Be the Good Samaritan who stops to make a difference.  I don’t want the Lord to look down on my neighborhood displeased that there is no justice.  I want to serve my neighbor in need.  You do not need to do this alone.  We want to help you go deeper and transform lives as you listen to Jesus and

Go and Do Likewise.