Recognition is a form of appreciation and compensation for volunteers. Courts actively should seek ways to reward volunteers - i.e., lawyers, shorthand reporters, experts, etc., who provide pro bono services. "Thanks from the bench" may not see like much, but it is. Volunteer attorneys handle these cases for a variety of reasons. They know, up front, they are not getting paid, and most of them don't expect remuneration of any kind - monetary, verbal or otherwise. But everyone wants and needs to be appreciated. And public recognition from a judge - an acknowledgment and an appreciation of your hard work - is significant. How can courts recognize and reward pro bono volunteers?
Publicly recognize the contributions of pro bono attorneys at bar functions or social settings. Try to acknowledge his or her contributions in front of other people.
Words spoken in open court. Recognition of an individual attorney for pro bono services expressed by a judge in open court when his or her colleagues are present not only rewards that attorney but restates the expectation of all professionals to serve the needy.
A letter of thanks from the court for volunteering or performing pro bono services.
Words of praise at meetings of the local bar association or at meetings of civic organizations.
Recognition on the court's website.
Reserved parking space for pro bono attorney of the month.
A plaque, certificate or other memento especially one suitable for displaying in the attorney's office for his clients and colleagues to see.
A letter of praise and appreciation to the senior partner of the attorney's firm with special appreciation to the firm if they are allowing the attorney to consider pro bono time as billable hours or underwriting the expenses.
Annual appreciation ceremonies in collaboration with the local bar association. This also creates an incentive for others to participate.
A special annual reception with all members of the court limited to attorneys who have volunteered for pro bono service.
Keep in mind that pro bono attorneys frequently volunteer in high-volume need areas that are outside of their regular field, e.g., a skilled corporate attorney may be volunteering in his or her first family law matter. Expressing special appreciation for this extra effort is in order.
Record a YouTube video expressing appreciation to pro bono attorneys and link it to your court or local bar website. Click here for an example.