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Oklahoma Lawyers Making Equal Justice for all a Reality

Martin Luther King Day of Service - America's Legal Profession Called to Action!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

  • By: Margaret Shinn
  • Organization: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

You may have received a text message from Michelle Obama, an email from the American Bar Association or heard President-Elect Barack Obama's call for all Americans to bring positive change to their communities by joining together to meet the vastly underserved legal needs of low-income persons on Monday, January 19, designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

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Here is what the national call to action asks you to do:

1. Identify a local legal aid organization that seeks pro bono assistance from lawyers in your community. Not sure where to place your pro bono time?
Check out these organizations on our website Pro Bono Opportunites Guide:
http://www.probono.net/link.cfm?11601

2. On or before Monday, January 19, call or write a letter to the organization of your choice and offer to take on at least one new pro bono matter involving a low income person who is faced with the loss of a basic human need such as housing, health, safety, sustenance or child custody.

3. Reach out to other lawyers in your law firms, corporations and local legal community to urge them to join you in this effort.

4. The ABA is tracking and reporting responses on its website to let the world know how lawyers have stepped up to meet President-Elect Obama's call for a Day of Service. Email the ABA at this address:
ramshaws@staff.abanet.org

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From ABA President, H. Thomas Wells Jr.:

To the Editor:

America's lawyers welcome President-Elect Barack Obama's call for a national day of service on Jan. 19 - the Martin Luther King Jr. Day national holiday and the day before the inauguration. Notably the call to service stresses that this day should be just the start of a long-term, ongoing personal commitment to working to improve communities across the country.

As professionals with a tradition of working on behalf of others, lawyers provide voluntary services that are especially needed in today's troubled economy - services such as formal pro bono representation for disadvantaged clients and support for public or nonprofit organizations.

The legal profession is one of very few that provides an aspirational goal, encouraging each lawyer to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono service every year.

In covering the pro bono commitment by lawyers, American Lawyer Magazine reported in July that lawyers at the 200 highest grossing U.S. law firms performed more than 4.8 million hours of pro bono service. That number represents an increase of 590,000 hours from 2006, nearly eight percent. In an ABA study that includes the same time period, nearly three-quarters - or 73 percent - of lawyers reported doing pro bono work.

These figures do not include the personal work in schools, shelters, churches and community organizations where lawyers also are quick to lend a hand.

The National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide, available on the American Bar Association's Web site (http://www.probono.net/aba_oppsguide/), provides many avenues for pro bono and law-related public service work across the nation.

While lawyers can take pride in the pro bono and community service work they do, the need is greater than ever before. We need to commit ourselves to improving our neighborhoods, our cities, our towns and our country - on January 19, throughout the rest of 2009 - and beyond.

Sincerely,

H. Thomas Wells Jr.
President
American Bar Association

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