by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Happy Friday! How can you demonstrate your love for the law? Perhaps a pro bono clinic or a helpline? Show your community some love this weekend by volunteering.
Here are the week’s headlines:
- New York Legal Assistance Group announces reorganization;
- Mid-Shore Pro Bono (Maryland) accepting out-of-state attorneys;
- Record number of veterans receive assistance during Syracuse’s Valor Day;
- Wisconsin State Supreme Court seeks legislative study on access to legal services;
- Ontario seeking feedback on proposal to make family law services more accessible;
- PA Patent launched to provide pro bono assistance to inventors and startups;
- Maryland 2014 Pro Bono Status Report released;
- Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
- Super Music Bonus!
February 5, 2016 – “The New York Legal Assistance Group, a growing nonprofit that provides legal services to low-income New Yorkers, has created two new executive positions and reorganized its general legal services unit. Randal Jeffrey, who headed the general legal services unit, has been appointed general counsel, according to a news release. The other new position, chief operating officer, was filled effective Monday by Sara Meyers, who most recently was an assistant vice president at Hunter College. NYLAG’s general legal services unit, the organization’s largest division, was split into three distinct groups that will focus on the unit’s major practice areas: housing, consumer protection and public benefits.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)
February 5, 2016 – “Attorneys licensed to practice in other states may now volunteer with Mid-Shore Pro Bono, thanks to a rule change by the Bar of Maryland. As of Jan. 1, attorneys licensed in good standing in another state are allowed to take on pro bono work in Maryland.” “Out-of-state attorneys must complete a certification process, after which they will be permitted to represent clients through Maryland legal services organizations as long as they receive no payment. They will not have to pay dues to the state’s Client Protection Fund.” (MyEasternShoreMD)
February 6, 2016 – “North Dakota will soon have more staff fighting human trafficking and victims will have better access to emergency housing, legal help and other services using new state grants. The state recently awarded about $1.15 million in human trafficking grants that were set aside during last year’s legislative session. Those dollars, along with federal funding recently awarded, will address needs not previously met for victims of human trafficking in North Dakota. ‘Our philosophy when we gave the grants out was to make sure we had a comprehensive continuum of services,’ said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. ‘That starts with training for law enforcement, with emergency housing and then assistance for things individual victims might need like critical education, addiction treatment, mental health services and legal services.'” “Nearly $106,000 was awarded to Legal Services of North Dakota to dedicate staff to assist human trafficking victims statewide. The legal help could include immigration assistance, helping a victim get a criminal record expunged or pursuing civil action against traffickers.” (Grand Forks Herald)
February 7, 2016 – Here is an example of the power of law students. “A record number of military veterans from the Syracuse community received free legal services Saturday at Dineen Hall. Syracuse University’s sixth Valor Day event provided veterans and their families access to organizations and legal advisement close to home and free of charge. Valor Day is a shortening for Veterans’ Advocacy, Law and Outreach Day. The event was created in 2012 by College of Law student organization VISION, or Veterans Issues, Support, Initiative and Outreach Network. Valor Day services were provided by a culmination of student volunteers from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and the College of Law and professional representatives for career, legal, financial, personal and family advisement, said VISION President Matt Crouch.”(The Daily Orange)
February 8, 2016 – “The Wisconsin Supreme Court has asked the co-chairs of the Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council to study how to improve access to civil legal services for people who cannot afford a lawyer, the court noted in a press release last week. The Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council, co-chaired by Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) and Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), establishes committees to study major issues and to recommend legislation for introduction every two years. In a letter to the co-chairs, the justices unanimously requested that the Joint Legislative Council establish a study committee on improving access to civil legal services.” (State Bar of Wisconsin)
February 9, 2016 – “Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada are seeking public feedback on a proposal to help families access qualified family legal service providers. Family law includes divorce and separation, child custody and access, and child support. Currently, only lawyers are permitted to provide legal services in family law cases and this can lead to litigants choosing to represent themselves. In 2014-15, over 57 per cent of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court. As part of Ontario’s work to improve access to justice for families, the Honourable Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo will lead a review to consider whether a broader range of legal services providers, such as paralegals, law clerks and students, should be allowed to handle certain family law matters. Justice Bonkalo will also ask for input on what types of legal services, if handled by a broader range of legal service providers, could improve the family law system and how alternative service providers could be held accountable. The public is invited to provide comments on the consultation document by April 30, 2016.” (News Ontario)
February 10, 2016 – “Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a program of the the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, is formally launching PA Patent, a statewide effort to provide under-resourced inventors, startups and tax-exempt organizations the assistance of pro bono patent attorneys.” “During a pilot of PA Patent started a year ago, 43 patent attorneys volunteered to represent ‘members of the creative economy,’ the organization said. During the last 12 months, 14 cases made it through a screening process, and an additional 11 cases are in the pipeline. PA Patent is part of a national effort under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act to establish pro bono patent services in every state.” (Philly.com)
February 10, 2016 – “Of Maryland’s 38,863 licensed attorneys, 42.4 percent reported some measure of pro bono activity, logging a total of 1,144,952 hours of pro bono services, according to the Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, Year 2014, recently published by the Maryland Judiciary. These findings reflect those pro bono reports filed by the February 15, 2015, deadline.” “Financial contributions to legal services providers and organizations that work to improve the legal system from 6,852 attorneys totaled $4,275,222.” (Maryland State Bar Bulletin)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
The District of Columbia Bar Foundation (DCBF) has selected Jennifer L. Berger, Esquire, as the recipient of the 2016 Jerrold Scoutt Prize. Ms. Berger is a Supervisory Attorney at Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE).
The prize is awarded annually to an attorney who has worked for a significant portion of his or her career at a nonprofit organization providing direct hands-on legal services to the needy in the District of Columbia, has demonstrated compassionate concern for his or her clients, and has exhibited a high degree of skill on their behalf.
In her ten years as Supervising Attorney at LCE, Ms. Berger has worked to advocate for elderly citizens experiencing difficulty in the housing area. In her nomination, Jan May, Executive Director of Legal Counsel for the Elderly, said of Jennifer: “She shows a dogged commitment to enhance the quality of life for low-income D.C. seniors through legal advocacy, social service, and public outreach.” Mr. May also praised Ms. Berger for her passion and determination to provide her clients with the best representation. Congratulations! (DC Bar Foundation)
Super Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.