Featured Events 2012
Poverty Education for Lawyers
Walk A Month In My Shoes
In four locations throughout the country, lawyers are taking part in the National Celebration of Pro Bono by participating in experiential learning programs designed to educate them about poverty and the vital role pro bono lawyers play in assisting those living on the social margins.
In Washington, D.C. and Chicago, IL, lawyers will participate in "Walk A Month In My Shoes: An Experience for Pro Bono Attorneys and Others Who Work With Low Income Clients". During this three-hour poverty simulation, each attendee will "walk in the shoes" of a potential client, being assigned a difficult circumstance often faced by low-income individuals as they navigate the daunting legal system. By experiencing, even for just a few hours, the constant juggling act and routine indignities felt by people in poverty, the training shows attorneys why their services are desperately needed.
In Rochester, NY, lawyers have been asked to go to www.playspent.org and play the poverty simulator game on that site. The 15 minute simulation is a fast-paced and engaging game that challenges the player to survive on $1,000/month. Attorneys will then attend a Walk a Mile in the Shoes of a Client event during which the exercise will be debriefed and related to the need for pro bono volunteers. In Philadelphia, PA, an 2.5 hour Pro Bono Ethics CLE will be preceded by a 50 minute experiential poverty simulation similarly designed to provide lawyers with the context for pro bono volunteerism.
The Chicago and D.C. simulations will be led by Tiela Chalmers, a nationally recognized expert on access to justice issues."As lawyers, we are good at spotting legal issues," said Chalmers. "But to really understand the whole spectrum of someone's experience and how it will lead them to make choices that we don't understand or don't approve of, you learn it in a different way when you experience it yourself." Stressful economic times create new legal challenges for low-income individuals, increasing the need for representation in areas such as foreclosures, homelessness, unemployment benefits and temporary assistance. At the same time, legal services providers have had budget cuts, further hampering their ability to meet the demand for quality legal assistance. The recently released Legal Services Corporation's Report of the National Pro Bono Task Force noted the need for lawyers to be educated about poverty and the great need for pro bono legal services in alleviating it. These four events are directly addressing this need.
Alabama's five law schools have jointly sponsored a website where law students all over the state can take the Pro Bono Pledge during Pro Bono Week 2012. The website allows law students to commit to yearly contributions of service to the community through activities such as volunteering, mentoring, participating in legal clinics, serving on boards, working in public interest or public service and providing legal services regardless of a client's ability to pay. Students are encouraged to pledge to do Pro Bono work throughout their legal careers.
The pledge was the brainchild of the Law School Subcommittee of the Alabama State Bar's Celebrate Pro Bono Committee. All five Alabama law schools are participating in the effort: University of Alabama School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, Cumberland School of Law, Faulkner University Jones School of Law, and Miles Law School.
New Hampshire's High Five
Pro Bono Month and Innovative Support Campaign Launch
This year, the New Hampshire Bar Association launched its first annual Pro Bono Month with a Proclamation from Governor John H. Lynch and the release of a distinctive logo and program support campaign, "High Five". The logo was selected to provide a strong visual identity for Pro Bono Month, but has another meaning as well: $5 from each tuition fee at a live NH Bar Continuing Legal Education program will be directed to support the Pro Bono Program, which has, like many organizations, faced cutbacks in grants from a variety of sources. The highlighting of this modest subsidy demonstrates the entire Bar Association's commitment to sustaining an effective Pro Bono program that serves the members and the public by maximizing the lawyers' effectiveness when they volunteer their time to legal services.
Throughout the month of October, NH Bar Association is celebrating the volunteer spirit and accomplishments of the volunteer attorneys who have contributed so much to assisting low-income citizens in obtaining access to civil justice and help with meeting urgent legal needs. The month also provides an occasion to spotlight the behind-the-scenes work of the Pro Bono staff, headed by Ginny Martin, NH Bar Associate Executive Director for Legal Services. These dedicated staff members coordinate trainings, conduct outreach to recruit new volunteer attorneys, work with clients who are awaiting referral, coordinate with other legal services providers, and help arrange for support services, including mentoring and access to professional services such as court reporting or financial experts to assist in pro bono cases.
Illustrative of that behind the scenes support, during Pro Bono month, the NH Bar Pro Bono Program begins its annual "Divorce Camp" - an intensive three-night training program (one night for three consecutive weeks) where up to 12 attorneys are trained in handling family law cases while working on a carefully selected actual Pro Bono referral cases. Martin says that past "Divorce Camp" participants have become solid and sometimes spectacular ongoing contributors to Pro Bono year after year.
In addition, a volunteer recognition will take place in October, and the Bar Association is coordinating with the University of New Hampshire School of Law on promoting public service activity by law students and honoring the memory of the late Bruce Friedman, legal clinic director for Pierce Law Center in the 1980s and early 1990s, whose dedication to access to justice has left an enduring legacy. The Bruce E. Friedman Pro Bono award ceremony will be held on October 16, 2012.
Innovative Pro Bono Service/Fundraising Contest
Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender, with the support of the Colorado Bar Association, declared October as Colorado's first annual Legal Professionalism Month. Among the host of programs scheduled for the month is a pro bono service/fundraising contest between the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association(CTLA) and the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association(CDLA). The goal is to see which side can generate more pro-bono hours/dollars. The winner will be announced at a joint CDLA and CTLA event on October 10.Each member was asked to commit to at least one hour of service or to make at least a $100 contribution to a Community Based Project. Participants were provided with a list of available volunteer opportunities,and donated their time and skills to a broad range of activities throughout the month of September, including participation in: free legal advice clinics, school attendance mediation programs, and mentoring projects.
In addition, in the spirit of recognizing and celebrating professionalism and civility, CTLA and CDLA members have nominated attorneys from the other Association to receive Professionalism awards; the winners will be announced at the October 10 gathering.
To commemorate the month, the Colorado Supreme Court will hold an assembly of lawyers on Monday, Oct. 29, and a special session of the Court to welcome newly admitted attorneys to the practice. Click here to read the Chief Justice's article from the May 2012 edition of The Colorado Lawyer introducing Colorado's new Commission on the Legal Profession and proclaiming October 2012 Legal Professionalism Month.
Wednesdays in October (Oct 3,10, 17, 24)
The National Association of Pro Bono Professionals is hosting its first virtual pro bono conference. NAPBPro leadership developed this conference in response to the need for low-cost, no-travel training, networking, and support among pro bono professionals throughout the country. From the comfort of their offices, pro bono managers can find a wealth of information ranging from basic pro bono management to innovative programming.
NAPBPro has recruited a host of outstanding speakers and workshop presenters for the Virtual Conference, including: James Sandman, President, Legal Services Corporation, Steven Scudder, Counsel to the ABA's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, and Virginia Martin, President of NAPBPro, Inc. Director of New Hampshire Bar Association's Pro Bono Referral Program. Additional sample workshops and presenters include: ProBonoNet on Using Technology to Recruit and Support Volunteers; a lively discussion of the impact of effective partnerships, highlighting the innovative collaboration between Akron's Community Legal Aid Services, the Akron Bar Association and the University of Akron School of Law; an analysis of the successful renovation of communications for the pro bono program of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Other topics include: New Issues in Family Law, Resources for Pro Bono Programs from the ABA's Center for Pro Bono, and other essential pro bono issues. NAPBPro hopes to increase awareness of the role and importance of pro bono professionals. Pro Bono Managers need a broad array of expertise and skills in order to do their jobs effectively. In an era of rising poverty, shrinking budgets, and overwhelmed courts, trained, competent, and confident Pro Bono Professionals are essential to expanding access to justice through pro bono recruitment and representation. NAPBPro's Virtual Conference is a significant contribution to the professionalization of this indispensable work.
For additional information and to register for the conference, visit the NAPBPro website.
Space is limited, so register soon, but no later than September 25.