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NEWS FROM THE PRO BONO COMMUNITY

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A new Web tool that will enable lawyer to substantially increase their volunteer assistance to low-income North Carolinians was launched November 16, 2006, at www.probono.net/NC.

The Web site was developed by Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) in partnership with the NC Bar Association (NCBA) and the NCBA Foundation. LANC seeks to expand the outreach of the legal aid community by posting actual legal cases, projects and training opportunities that are available for "pro
bono" ("for the public good") service by the private bar.

"We developed the pro bono site to provide resources and make it easier for attorneys to volunteer their time and expertise to the representation of low-income and economically disadvantaged clients in North Carolina," said Janet Ward Black, a Greensboro attorney and president-elect of the NC Bar Association. "The majority of the over one million families eligible for legal services in our state are working families living in the shadow of prosperity, and they often need legal help to preserve basic necessities. Volunteer lawyers form private practice are essential to help meet the tremendous need."

"It's our professional obligation," added Black. The partnership intends ww.probono.net/NC to become "cyberspace central" by linking attorneys to the multitude of volunteer lawyer opportunities available through the legal aid organizations in
North Carolina.

Black noted that the key will be to integrate the new Web site into other networks already present in North Carolina.

"Pro bono service is a well-established part of our profession," Black stated. "However, the utilization of the Internet to support this important component is relatively new. The establishment of probono.net/ NC provides an exciting new way for attorneys to get involved with clients and obtain life-altering solutions to their critical legal needs." The NC Bar Association actively promotes pro bono services to its membership through its Public Service and Pro Bono Activities Department. The NCBA Foundation provided initial funding for the new web site.

The Web site, www.probono.net/NC, is also part of a national network of legal aid organizations that promote volunteer service by attorneys. Initially encouraged by grants from the federal Legal Services Corporation, legal aid law firms from at least 22 states are developing statewide websites that utilize a platform developed by Probono.net, a New York nonprofit that assists nonprofit legal groups.

Although much of the Web site is available to the public, resource sections will be restricted to attorneys who have indicated their interest in pro bono work in specific substantive law areas. To "join" a specific area, attorneys go online to the Web site and complete a survey of their interest in performing pro bono work.

"Last year, more than 2,800 attorneys signed up or made themselves available for pro bono work with LANC," added George Hausen, the executive director of LANC. "North Carolina has nearly 20,000 lawyers. As we develop the site, we see tremendous potential for greatly increasing the numbers of volunteer attorneys, creating a wider dialogue about poverty law issues and generally helping more vulnerable clients get access to justice for their basic needs. It's easier than ever to get information and to get your name into our volunteer pool.

Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to eligible, low-income people in all 100 counties of North Carolina through 24, geographically located offices in North Carolina. LANC's clients typically have an annual income of 125% or less of the federally established poverty levels.

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