In 1919, Reginald Heber Smith wrote the seminal article “Justice and the Poor,” laying out the irrefutable argument that everyone should have access to our legal system. Today, lawyers are taught in law school that there is a professional responsibility to provide legal services to everyone.
At some schools, such as Tulane Law School, pro bono is a requirement for graduation. In addition, the American Bar Association recommends that attorneys render at least 50 hours a year of pro bono legal services, and the prestigious American Lawyer rankings are based, in part, on pro bono activities.
However, there is not a corresponding requirement, ethical rule, tradition, or even a standard practice for those who support the legal profession. Law firms tell us that their own vendors, consultants, and experts do not have the same requirements, initiatives, or individual programs to provide pro bono services. In fact, many law firms have had to create a monetary budget to pay for outside services to support their own pro bono matters.
At iDS, we believe differently. We have access to specialized training, skills, and technology, and we are fortunate to be at the nexus of change in law and technology. From email and file shares to cybersecurity and data privacy, it is a privilege to work on exciting and rewarding legal matters involving digital evidence.
We feel that our wide array of technology services are a crucial part of the legal process and a key component in resolving litigation toward a just outcome. However, we cannot simultaneously believe that e-discovery and related services are crucial to litigation without extending those services to those who cannot otherwise afford them.
Our Commitment to Equitable E-Discovery
Since the inception of our company, iDS has provided legal technology services to those that need it most. We have worked with top-tier law firms and law school legal aid programs on some of the most interesting pro bono cases in the world.
For instance, our consultants have helped Guantanamo Bay detainees, indigent farm and migrant workers, cyber hacking victims, individuals involved in predatory debt collection, and on matters related to environmental protection litigation.
For these clients, we processed and hosted electronic documents, conducted data analysis, and proffered expert testimony. Over the past 10 years, we have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in free services and consulting. Furthermore, we have partnered with local and regional legal aid agencies to provide free continuing legal education seminars that teach attorneys cost-effective ways to deal with digital evidence.
We have worked on challenging projects with leading law firms, fantastic attorneys, and people who truly need our services. In return for these donated services, we have gained the most incredible gifts and have seen our own team members grow professionally.
To illustrate, in their pro bono matters, our consultants work on professionally stimulating cases involving extremely talented legal professionals. Additionally, we often learn new things that we can incorporate in other matters each time we engage on a pro bono case.
Also, our team members leave the project with a deep sense of satisfaction having worked with people that needed dire help. A well-managed pro bono program reaps rewards for a company, and even though there are costs associated with providing free services, the intrinsic benefits outweigh those costs. Service providers that launch similar programs will see this multiplier effect.
Pro Bono in the Legal Tech Industry
We have been asked: How can we make our program better?
Our answer: Let others know about our program, and let it serve as a role model for other service providers in the legal arena.
Therefore, in our 10th year of operations, we are making a change by going public with our pro bono program. As part of moving our program from informal to formal, we have done the following:
- We have established an annual budget for pro bono projects,
- We have created a formal process for the approval and budgeting of pro bono requests,
- We have built internal processes to allow individuals to work on pro bono projects as part of their employee goals and objectives, and
- We will start publicly promoting the ideals of pro bono service and commitment.
As we have heard from our own clients, the e-discovery and legal support industries are not doing enough to bring data services and expert services to everyone, regardless of their income or circumstances. With this public commitment to pro bono, iDS hopes to be a role model in the industry, encouraging other legal technology providers to join this cause.
Published August 26, 2019.