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Strategic Assessment

Relevant Environmental Factors and Trends

Three primary trends emerged as the Strategic Assessment Task Force evaluated the current legal services environment. Identifying them allows the Pro Bono Center to take them into account as the Center creates its operational plan. 

Continued complex poverty issues, effect of gentrification in D.C., and a rise in pro se litigants in the Civil Division.
One of the prevailing trends highlighted as an important influential factor in pro bono legal work is the changing demographics in D.C. It was noted that gentrification and rising house prices have affected and will continue to affect the legal needs of the community. For instance, the legal issues of individuals with low incomes are more complex and the poverty issues are more entrenched. Several interviewees and focus group participants, including judges from the D.C. Superior Court, also noted an increased number of pro se litigants in the Civil Division. 

Changes in law firm pro bono resources. 
A dominant theme across all stakeholders was that the growing number of requests for legal assistance and the declining availability of law firm attorneys volunteering to do pro bono work. A number of factors were identified as contributing to this situation, including: the residual effects of the recession on law firms, which has led to an increase emphasis on billable hours particularly for junior lawyers; the reduced size of the incoming associates' classes; fewer litigation attorneys; an increase in mergers and acquisitions among law firms; and increased competition among legal services providers for pro bono resources.

Changes in law firm giving.
Restraints on law firm resources mentioned above, in particular law firm mergers and smaller associate classes, have limited and changed law firm giving. In addition, there is more competition than in previous years and this competition is likely to grow.