Foundation revives One Campaign to encourage pro bono work

The Florida Bar Foundation has revived its One Campaign to encourage Florida lawyers to represent at least one person who could not otherwise afford a lawyer in a civil legal matter. This is commonly referred to as “taking a pro bono case.”  The new effort will be called the One Promise Campaign. Tallahassee media consultant Gary Yordon of The Zachary Group, the winner of 6 Emmy Awards and developer of the original campaign in 2009, will donate his services to the new campaign.

“The Foundation is grateful for the leadership and vision of Judge Cathy McEwen and Kathy McLeroy, co-chairs of The Florida Bar’s Pro Bono Legal Services Committee, who have jumpstarted this effort to promote pro bono legal work,” Donny MacKenzie, the Foundation’s executive director, said. “With interest rates once again at historically low levels, there are even fewer funds and resources available to meet the needs of civil legal aid for the poor and working poor in Florida. Florida lawyers have historically stepped up in times of need, and this campaign will be designed to educate young lawyers and remind seasoned ones of the very real need for them to take a pro bono case.”

The Foundation has committed $10,000 to the project, which has been matched by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida’s Bench Bar Fund. The Florida Bar Business Law Section donated $2,500, and the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association donated $1,500.  The Foundation is continuing to solicit funds to meet its $35,000 fundraising goal to complete the project.

The campaign will produce four videos and a brochure to educate and persuade lawyers to make “one promise” to take a pro bono case.

“The first year of the One Campaign, the pro bono needle that had not moved one percent in 25 years jumped 14%,” Yordon said. “We reached some of the 45% of lawyers who had taken a case before and inspired them to take another. Our educated estimate was that about 9,000 to 10,000 attorneys also took their first pro bono case because of the One Campaign.”

“I believe that when lawyers are educated about the great need for pro bono work, they will be motivated to volunteer,” said Judge McEwen. “I am confident that bringing pro bono work back into the spotlight through the One Promise Campaign will inspire many lawyers to step forward to help. To me, the name ‘One Promise’ hearkens that weighty yet perhaps underappreciated line in our Oath of Admission that we must ‘never reject the cause of the defenseless or oppressed.’”