“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead.
It is no secret that the recent presidential election has invoked a strong reaction from many citizens of our country. Protests have broken out across the country, social media is inundated with groups wondering what they can do, and a new form of donating has hit the scene. Called “rage donating”, websites are encouraging people who are motivated by the recent presidential elections to donate to non-profits that defend women, Muslim Americans, free speech, immigrants, and people of color. Donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have skyrocketed in just the past week.
How do pro bono programs tap into that energy and encourage attorneys to use pro bono to assist marginalized groups in this country? Now is the time to do it, so organizations who need pro bono attorneys should take advantage of the frustration by reaching out to attorneys to get involved.
If you are interested in reaching attorneys, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms seem to be great starting points. If you are on a Facebook group with attorneys, reach out to them and let them know what pro bono opportunities are available for them. Come up with a clever hashtag to get people motivated an involved. For example, the hashtag #TransLawHelp has been trending on Twitter, and links to the website Translawhelp.org. Translawhelp.org links users to attorneys around the country who can assist transgender individuals with name and gender marker changes before the new administration takes office. We suggest using the hashtag #ProBonoNow as a united hashtag that organizations can use to drum up support for pro bono involvement now. Also, make sure that you are on the ABA Center for Pro Bono website in our directory of programs. If you need to be added or update your information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Beyond social media, schedule volunteer orientations to train interested attorneys on taking cases with your organization. Or schedule a brown-bag lunch forum for attorneys to come together to discuss pro bono opportunities with your organization and how those opportunities relate to the election outcome.
Remind attorneys that it isn’t only the groups above that need help. Those living in poverty still need help from pro bono attorneys to secure benefits and housing, and to assist in family law cases or protect them from domestic violence. Non-profit funding could potentially be in danger under a new administration, so remind attorneys that pro bono support is needed in all areas of the law. Send out emails to your volunteers and encourage them to assist in recruiting other attorneys. If there are group meetups to discuss the election outcomes, go and take the opportunity to talk about your program and how attorneys can contribute pro bono to make a difference!
For volunteer attorneys wondering how to get involved, visit the ABA Center for Pro Bono website. We have a map that connects you to pro bono opportunities in your state. You can also reach out to groups on Facebook or other social media platforms. Contact your local bar association, they should know of pro bono efforts in your area. Or go online to your state’s legal aid or volunteer lawyers program information site if you have one (i.e. Illinois Legal Aid Online). Those websites typically list volunteer opportunities in the state. If your time is limited, check out www.ABAFReeLegalAnswers.org – if your state is participating and live, it’s a great way to fit pro bono in to your busy schedule. There are many opportunities to devote your skills to those in need, and now is the time to do it!