Archive for Attorney Pro Bono
The program officially began the following spring, and I was the first student assigned to work with an attorney. Our dog was an emaciated pitbull named Bully, who had lived the first two years of his life confined in a crate. He was starved by his owner, and kept in his own filth, which initially left him unsocialized and very sad. The attorney and I did the initial evaluation, which involved talking to the technicians and spending some time with the dog. As Bully’s case continued, he stayed at the local shelter, and he began to heal. The attorney and I knew he needed us, so we went to visit him almost daily.
Bully’s owner had signed surrender papers, but because of his history of starvation, Bully wasn’t ready to be adopted. He had to get healthy, and be trained to learn that he didn’t have to be possessive of his food and treats. Bully needed someone willing to care for a scared and sad (but very smart) pitbull.
We found a trainer who specializes in dogs that need this kind of help, and then started a GoFundMe. We raised over $1500 in under 24 hours! And just over two months after he arrived in the shelter, Bully left with the trainer. Bully was renamed Teddy, and spent the next 60 days learning appropriate dog behaviors.
But Teddy still didn’t know how to live in a house. We found a local dog rescue organization willing to sponsor him as a foster dog, so long as we could provide the foster home, so Teddy came to live with me, my two dogs, and my cat. When Teddy first arrived, pretty much everything was new and an adventure. Eventually he became accustomed to a routine that included daily long walks, romps in the backyard, and nightly snores on the couch while I did my school work.
After two months in my home, the perfect family applied for Teddy: a mom and a dad, with another young dog to play with. The family knew Teddy’s history, and was willing to work with him to allow him to get settled and become a member of the family. Teddy finally got his forever home.
Teddy’s legal case was ongoing through all of this; at each court appointment the attorney and I would prepare a report on Teddy’s progress, which we submitted to the judge and attorneys. The judge would read each report as he considered the facts presented to him. To date, Teddy’s case has not been closed.
The attorney animal advocate program is ongoing, and students continue to be paired with attorneys. Each case is different, but each dog entering the program has attorney advocates to follow up and make sure the pet’s story is told. Teddy is alive and well thanks to the attorney advocate program, and thanks to this program, I get to tell his story.”
Colleen Gibbons is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law and is the College’s Pro Bono Fellow. She is a self-proclaimed Dog Lady. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer Legal Advocate – Asylum Access Ecuador (Multiple locations)
For more information on how to get involved with Student or Attorney Pro Bono work, visit the PSJD Resource Center on Pro Bono.
Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
“Public libraries are critical access points to government institutions. As times get tougher, it becomes more and more important that people have libraries where they can find out how to protect their rights and navigate the complexities of our society.”
— Self-Represented Litigation Network, National Center for State Courts
If you’re looking for pro bono opportunities, you might want to try your local library. For example, just this fall the D.C. Public Library partnered with D.C.’s Neighborhood Legal Services Program, joining a growing number of public libraries where low-income patrons can obtain legal information or advice. (Update: Check out the Washington County [Oregon] Law Library’s list of library-legal aid collaborations to get a sense of scale.) Working with the library, NLSP lawyers will focus on employment law, adding a legal component to job programming, which the DC Public Library (like many similar institutions) has offered its patrons for some time. In addition, the partnership includes seminars on tenant rights and paternal rights.
With this new partnership, the D.C. Public Library joins a number of its sister institutions working to address the United States’ access to justice gap. The concept has been picking up steam since at least 2010, when the Self-Represented Litigation Network of the National Center for State Courts held a conference titled “Public Libraries and Access to Justice” at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, Probono.net followed up on the conference with a Webinar Series titled “Libraries and Access to Justice.”
Both of these events explored the logic behind library-legal aid partnerships and the variety of forms they have taken. Like DC, some of these institutions bring pro bono lawyers into the library to provide community education. Other libraries ask lawyers to train library staff to work with online legal resources; a third group hosts full-blown legal aid clinics. Update: Liz Keith of Probono.net recently clued me in to Colorado’s Virtual Pro Se Clinic initiative, which connects pro se litigants to volunteer attorneys via webcam–a model that relies heavily on public libraries’ computer services.
For my fellow Washingtonians, if you’re interested in being involved contact the NSLP’s project attorney, Dan Choi (email@example.com), with questions or requests for information. For those located elsewhere, ask your local library whether they have any similar partnerships going. If your area isn’t yet lucky enough to host one of these partnerships, remember that both the Self-Represented Litigation Network and Probono.net have left all of their event materials online. Between the two, you have access to a wealth of information and contacts to help you think about how your community might begin leveraging libraries for legal aid.
National Pro Bono Week is only three weeks away! For the past five years, the event has provided an annual, national spotlight on lawyers’ professional responsibility to those unable to pay for legal services. Hopefully, October is a month when all of us ask ourselves what else we might do to contribute in our communities, despite our busy schedules.
Some pro bono work can involve long-term commitments, but we tend to forget how much even a few moments of legal advice mean to someone unable to afford more. Isolated free evenings can make a difference.
The tricky part can be figuring out what to do with them. The legal needs of individuals unable to afford our professional rates are great, and a plethora of organizations in cities across the country need volunteer assistance as they attempt to meet them. Tools like ProBono.net’s National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide and Pro Bono Students Canada’s Community Placement Program and the Court and Tribunal Program do excellent work cataloging these programs. Unfortunately, it is sometimes unclear what these organizations need. Lawyers fill out a form or send an email without knowing where and when they might be asked to contribute.
Starting this year, PSJD would like to make it a little easier to find a use for your free moments. Once or twice a month (depending on demand) we will highlight specific opportunities in each NALP region for attorneys to turn up and get involved in pro bono work on the spot. Some of these opportunities will require activity beyond the initial starting time and date; please read each event page carefully. Also be sure to read event pages to determine whether you must pre-register for the event. Our goal is to let you know when and where your services are needed in your community.
In order for this initiative to work, we will need your help. Public interest organizations that rely on legal volunteers: please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of orientation events, trainings, or walk-in opportunities for volunteer lawyering in your community in the coming month and we will consider including your event in the next edition of this feature.
Enjoy giving back!
Pro Bono Action Items By Region
Practice: Civil representation for the indigent Boston-area community.
Action Item: Attend their New Volunteer Attorney Orientation
When: Monday, October 6, 4pm – 5pm
Where: 99 Chauncy Street, Boston MA 02111
Questions: Tiara D. Mahoney Paulino
Notes: Volunteer opportunities include both case handling and short-term (one-day) projects.
Practice: Walk-in legal information to unrepresented parties probating large estates for people who lived in the District of Columbia.
Action Item: Attend their Training Session.
When: Wednesday, October 8, 12pm – 2:30pm
Where: D.C. Superior Court; 1101 K Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Questions: email@example.com | 202-626-3489
NOTES: Malpractice insurance provided. Resource center open Tuesday afternoons. Volunteers must commit to at least four afternoons within a year of the training.
Practice: Legal representation in citizenship cases for low-income immigrants and refugees.
Action Item: Attend their Training Session.
When: Thursday, October 9, 9am – 12:30pm
Where: Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi | 800 LaSalle Ave. Ste. 2800, Minneapolis, MN 55402
Questions: Ann Applebaum
NOTES: Cases are pre-screened and should only require 15-20 hours of attorney work. No immigration experience or second language skills needed. Training is free for attorneys who accept a pro bono case from ILCM, otherwise $100.
Practice: Legal assistance and representation for victims of intimate partner violence/stalking seeking civil protective orders in Fulton County Superior Court.
Action Item: Attend their Training Session.
When: Tuesday, October 7, 11:30am – 3:30pm
Where: Alston & Bird LLP | 1201 West Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta GA 30309
Questions: Julia Black
NOTES: 3.5 CLE credits available ($17.50). Training is free to those who do not want CLE credit. Lunch will be provided.
Practice: Informal counsel on immigration and various generalist issues (family law, small claims, employment, etc.). No direct representation provided and no guaranteed referrals.Action Item: Volunteer at their Columbia Neighborhood Center Clinic.
When: Saturday, October 4, 10am – 12pm
Where: Columbia Neighborhood Center | 785 Morse Avenue, Sunnyvale CA 94087
NOTES: Please review this orientation presentation before volunteering.