by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Happy Friday! We continue to see an increase in interest and participation in pro bono since the inauguration. If you’re looking to volunteer, PSJD has you covered. Check out PSJD for law student and attorney pro bono opportunities nationwide.
Here are the week’s headlines:
- Indiana nonprofit legal aid celebrates 1 year anniversary;
- Trump’s election sparks new interest in pro bono;
- Proposed bill to raise Montana civil court fees to help fund legal aid;
- New online tool helps immigrants know their rights and access legal aid;
- Miami legal services receives $1 million gift;
- Louisiana public interest attorneys launch new social justice initiative;
- Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
- Super Music Bonus!
January 19, 2017 – “In the original business plan for the legal clinic, Justice Unlocked, the staff expected 15 to 20 cases in its first year, executive director Jamie Sutton said. However, since the nonprofit opened in December 2015, Justice Unlocked said it has opened 88 cases.The organization’s legal services have helped get clients out of jail, regain custody of their children and have a place to live after being evicted, Sutton said. Justice Unlocked is a local nonprofit that provides low-cost legal services for people unable to afford attorneys. It provides services in areas like criminal law, family law, landlord and tenant law, small claims court, and a victim’s justice clinic. The nonprofit is a sliding scale legal clinic, Sutton said, which means it provides low fees based on income and household size.” (Indiana Daily Student)
January 19, 2017 – “Since Donald Trump was elected president on a platform that many fear would curb protections for society’s most disadvantaged, donations have flooded into public interest groups. And at many large law firms, pro bono coordinators are seeing a spike in offers to volunteer. ‘The interest level is extremely high,’ says David Lash, the managing counsel for pro bono and public interest services at O’Melveny & Myers. ‘People involved in all things pro bono have largely reacted to the election by framing it as a call to action. They are responding with a renewed commitment to helping vulnerable groups of people.'” “But the uncertainty over what a Trump administration would do has made other pro bono planning difficult. ‘Most groups are urging caution,’ says Steven Schulman, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who leads the firm’s worldwide pro bono practice. ‘We don’t want to overplan.’ Kevin Curnin, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and the new president of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, says that his members are talking daily among themselves. ‘It’s not too soon to start thinking,’ says Curnin, who is the founding director of Stroock’s public service project. ‘We can collaborate and strategize to come up with reasonable and practical responses.’ There is one area where advocates feel pressure to move quickly. ‘The most urgent discussions are around immigration,’ says Schulman. ‘That’s an area where it’s more predictable than others where individuals might be affected.’ Ellyn Josef, pro bono counsel at Vinson & Elkins, recalls that the day after the election, five lawyers contacted her asking for immigration assignments. ‘I probably don’t get five calls in a typical month,’ says Josef.” “Josef, who also sits on the board of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, urges firms to advocate for more funding for legal services groups, as well as dig deeper into their own pockets.” (National Law Journal)
January 20, 2017 – “On a split vote Friday, the Montana House approved raising some civil court filing fees for the first time in several decades, with added money going to help fund legal assistance for the poor. House Bill 46, by Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula, passed on a preliminary vote 54-46 and must clear a final vote in the House before moving to the Senate. Dudik said the bill is the product of a four-year study by the Montana Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and is supported by Gov. Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, AARP, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Trial Lawyers Association and some other groups. She said some of these civil filing fees haven’t been raised in 20 or 30 years.” (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
January 25, 2017 – “In response to President Trump’s threat to deport up to 3 million immigrants, the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net have launched immi – a free online tool to help immigrants know their rights, understand their legal options, and access civil legal aid to avoid risk of deportation.” “Immi was created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net, who are dedicated to increasing access to justice for low-income immigrants and other vulnerable populations through innovative and effective technology, with support from Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation, and other donors.” (Sampan)
January 25, 2017 – “Legal Services of Greater Miami has received a $1 million gift from commercial real estate broker Edie Laquer to endow the nonprofit organization’s first attorney chair focused on women and children’s rights. The donation established the Edie Laquer Foundation women and children’s rights endowed attorney chair. Rebecca Schram of the legal services group has been named to the post. The gift will ensure ‘our most vulnerable neighbors — women and children — will always have an attorney dedicated to providing them with representation in our civil justice system,’ the nonprofit said in a news release.” (Daily Business Review)
January 26, 2017 – “Today, a group of Louisiana public interest attorneys announce the launch of a new social justice initiative – Green Justice Legal. Green Justice will provide key services for individuals, communities and organizations that might otherwise not have access to important legal representation due to cost, the nature of the issue or other challenges. An independent non-profit organization, Green Justice will strategically align its work with the Center for Environmental Law at Loyola University New Orleans.” “Green Justice is a ‘low bono’ law group, meaning that it will charge some fees for services, but those are significantly less than a typical firm. The organization is meant to fill the gap for those unable to pay regular legal costs, but for whatever reason, also cannot access pro bono assistance. By working with solo practitioners who supervise senior law students to collectively provide critical legal services, Green Justice can keep costs low. Students will learn important skills and clients are well served for far less expense.” (PRNewswire)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors will present Pro Bono Service Awards on January 26 to five attorneys, a law firm, and a corporate legal department in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice.
Recipients of the Pro Bono Service Awards are:
- Alston & Bird LLP and United Parcel Services Inc. (UPS) Legal Department, a law firm and a corporate legal department that have partnered for years to assist relatives and caregivers to obtain guardianships for impaired adults and minor children.
- Randall L. Hughes, an attorney who has been a supporter of pro bono efforts for nearly four decades, dedicating countless hours to helping low-income Georgians receive the legal help they need.
- Anne Seward Myers, an attorney who has handled 36 family law cases for Georgia Legal Services.
- Jeffrey J. Nix, an attorney who has volunteered with Atlanta Legal Aid Society for more than a decade, helping veterans and cancer patients with estate planning and other important legal issues.
- Huey W. Spearman, an attorney and longtime supporter of Georgia Legal Services Program who has accepted 53 pro bono cases over the years.
- Juli A. Wilkes Wisotsky, an attorney who has taken on 13 pro bono cases, many involving complex litigation.