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Online Service Empowers Attorneys

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Online Service Empowers Attorneys
Ralph Schaefer
9/28/2006

Attorneys wanting to do pro bono work with Legal Services of Oklahoma now can go to a website to get started.

Margaret Hamlett Shinn, Community Education/Pro Se Coordinator, said ProBono.net/OK has just gone online and empowers existing legal aid and probono organizations with innovative and high quality technology.

It has taken the work of many people from throughout Oklahoma to get the program ready, she said. Those from Tulsa include Dallas Ferguson, Tulsa County Bar Association, and Mary Ann Blair, University of Tulsa professor of family law.

This new program is designed to help those wanting to work in pro bono law.

Now, lawyers wanting to volunteer can check opportunities with just a few clicks, Shinn continued. All Oklahoma pro bono organizations now can post their most recent lists on ProBono.new/Ok's volunteer now page.

There are times when attorneys get a break between cases and are able to spend time in the pro bono arena, she continued. That single case can make the difference between someone getting the legal help they so desperately need.

The program has been developed by Legal Services Corporation which sponsors and has developed the program, Shinn said. This allows the use of Lexus Nexus programs. It also allows lawyers to collect information needed to assist clients.

Client files are secured on the website and only the lawyer working on the case can access that information, she said. The new website makes it possible to match needed pro bono services with law firms. Firms have worked closely with host organizations to build online libraries in other states.

It also allows law firms to make significant in-kind contributions of in-house resources, including word processing, conversion of documents to HTML and scanning.

There are nearly 200 registered users of ProBono.net/Ok from the legal aid community, Shinn said. 'But we have just scratched the surface and more help is needed.

Financial support is needed and as the network grows, broader support is needed from legal, business and foundation companies. Hopefully, the work will be seen as a service that is provided low income and elderly Oklahomans.

The bottom line is the new services provides more and more services to people, she said.

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