“On Friday morning last week, a dozen lawyers sitting in cubicles took calls in a downtown Chicago office. A video screen on the wall tracked the activity: 34 people had called in the first hour asking for free legal help. Six callers were waiting in the queue, and the longest waiting time in the queue was 12 minutes and 46 seconds. “Friday usually starts off slow,” said Allen Schwartz, the executive director of CARPLS, which stands for Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services. This pioneering legal aid hotline, now in its 23rd year, handled roughly 50,000 free consultations for 28,000 clients last year.”
Read the rest of the article here.
“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 email@example.com. 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!
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) Annual Convention & Policy Meeting was hosted by the Vermont Paralegal Organization (VPO) from October 20, 2016 through October 23, 2016 at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington, Vermont. This year’s annual convention and policy meeting “Paralegals Sweeten Vermont” was attended by delegates of Regions I, II, III, IV and V.
The NFPA Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility Guidelines provide that each paralegal should aspire to contribute 24 hours of community service, in addition to 24 hours to pro bono service annually. During the year, paralegals voluntarily report hours via the NFPA Pro Bono/Community Service Hours Reporting Forms to record and report the number of hours contributed to local groups, pro bono agencies, events, associations and organizations. Local associations may then report these hours to the state and local bar associations, highlighting the valuable contributions paralegals make to the delivery of pro bono legal services and to making access to justice a reality.
On Friday, October 21, 2016, ABA/NFPA Pro Bono Liaison, Christine Flynn, also spoke at each of the NFPA Region Meetings to discuss the Celebration of Pro Bono as well as issues including local pro bono committees, opportunities and goals for 2017 as well as the scheduling of a 2017 NFPA Pro Bono Conference.
On Thursday, October 20, 2016, NFPA honored 30 paralegals from local associations throughout the United States for meeting and/or exceeding the recommended aspirations for completion of pro bono/community service hours. These paralegals received certificates from NFPA.
Following recognition and the presentation of certificates, NFPA also announced the 2016 pro bono award winners as follows:
- Individual Pro Bono Award, Angela Wilson, Dallas Area Paralegal Association
- Association Pro Bono Award, Dallas Area Paralegal Association
The award winners received commemorative plaques.
Pictured: Dallas Area Paralegal Association (DAPA) Representatives with Allen F. Mihecoby, CLAS, RP, NFPA Vice President & Director of Professional Development.
ABA/NFPA Pro Bono Liaison, Christine M. Flynn, was also awarded the 2016 William R. Robie Leadership Award. This is the highest award presented annually to recognize a NFPA member in honor of the Honorable William R. Robie and his dedication to the paralegal profession, the expansion of the delivery of legal services and equal access to justice for all Americans. Christine received a commemorative plaque (pictured below).
Pictured: Lisa Vessels, RP, CP, FRP, NFPA President- 2016 and Christine Flynn, ABA/NFPA Pro Bono Liaison.
Our friend Jenny Rizzo at the Pro Bono Project in New Orleans has written a lovely piece on the legal needs in the city and how legal professionals can volunteer to help. We invite you to read her piece here, and if you have a blog post about the Celebration, please let us know in the Comments below!
The National Celebration of Pro Bono is taking place October 23-29, 2016. The highlight of the 2016 celebration is the ABA’s Veterans Legal Services Initiative. Participants in the 2016 celebration are encouraged to host programs focused on pro bono legal services for veterans during Pro Bono Celebration Week. Legal services providers across the country have responded to the call for veterans’ assistance by scheduling events during the month of October that focus on veterans’ legal needs.
These events include the Stand Down event in Anchorage, AL on October 21. This event provides veterans with legal, medical, housing, and employment assistance. Veterans wishing to attend the Anchorage Stand Down are even provided with free transportation to and from the event. Similar events include the Homeless Veteran Stand Down in Augusta, ME on October 22, the Central Ohio Homeless Veterans Stand Down Clinic in Columbus, OH on October 18, and the Homeless Veterans Stand Down in Cheyenne in Cheyenne, WY on October, 27.
If you have not yet planned an event around serving veterans, never fear – there is still time. A straightforward event would be to plan a training or CLE around veterans’ issues. You could even hold a “listening party” for the webinar, effectively Representing the Veteran Client: Legal and Cultural Basics, available here.
These are only a few of the many veterans’ assistance opportunities available during the 2016 Pro Bono Celebration week. Check out the ABA Celebrate Pro Bono website at https://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/ and click on the Events tab or the Veteran’s Resources tab to find a veteran’s legal services opportunity near you!
For questions regarding the 2016 Celebrate Pro Bono week please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Like many of you, I am passionate about pro bono work and do my best to assist those in need. I believe that pro bono service is a noble and necessary calling for all lawyers, so I urge you to participate in pro bono week.”
Read more here.
The National Celebration of Pro Bono is October 23-29 this year. That means that if you have not already planned your Celebration, you still have 4 weeks to do it! But what, and how?!
Our website, http://www.celebrateprobono.org, can help you out. We have an area dedicated to Event Ideas, sorted by type of event, where you can find inspiration and click on a category to get descriptions of specific events. Under the Resources tab, you can find information on using social media to promote your events, media resources, sample proclamations and more.
This year, we encourage you to plan events around the provision of legal services to veterans during the Celebration week through Veterans Day, November 11. Check out our specific page on veterans resources. We also encourage groups to organize veterans legal service activities on or around Memorial Day in May 2017. Organizations submitting and fulfilling a pledge to serve veterans on these two occasions will receive recognition from ABA President Linda Klein.
Before you leave celebrateprobono.org, don’t forget to go shopping at the Celebration store for gifts and mementos to hand out to your volunteers.
If you’re still not sure what you’d like to plan, or how to plan it, email us at email@example.com and we’d be happy to help you out.
“The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state that “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay” and suggest that lawyers should aspire to perform at least (50) hours of pro bono services per year. Therefore, most law schools encourage their students to participate in pro bono projects – a habit that hopefully many people will carry forward as they transition into practice.
While helping the public good is an obvious reason to do pro bono work, there are other positive benefits from volunteering your time.”
Read the rest here.
“If even a small fraction of the retired, semi-retired, and transitioning baby-boom lawyers would engage in some form of meaningful pro bono work, they could have a sizeable impact on economic and social justice. Creating the infrastructure to support and sustain these new roles, however, is a significant and sensitive undertaking.” Read the full op-ed here.
The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has also examined the issues surrounding engagement of retired, or emeritus, attorneys in pro bono. The recently published 2016 Survey of Emeritus and Pro Bono Practice Rules: Participation, Recruitment and Case Placement captures many of the issues programs and attorneys alike should consider.
How does your organization engage retiring pro bono attorneys?