Let’s talk about Pro Bono

I have written about Pro Bono legal representation on different occasions, especially during or near the ABA’s National Celebrate Pro Bono Week. Here in South Carolina, I’ve seen more discussion about it, and even a little more participation.

But, I still don’t see as much participation as I would expect. So I have a question for attorneys, paralegals, and law students:

If you are not regularly engaged in pro bono representation, why not?

Please add your comments below. No expletives please. And, I’d like your honest answers.

  • Have you been asked?
  • Do you know where to find opportunities?
  • Are you nervous to do so on your own?
  • Do you think you don’t have enough time to add another case?

Thanks!

~rfw

New Resource for SC Seniors and Caregivers

The South Carolina Bar Public Services Division and the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging recently collaborated together with members of the South Carolina Bar Elder Law Committee to update the SOUTH CAROLINA SENIOR CITIZENS’ HANDBOOK: A Guide to Laws and Programs Affecting Senior Citizens. This project was funded by a grant from the Administration on Aging.

Senior Handbook Cover

This is a FREE resource and is now available online at http://www.scbar.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=QL4xW3AqA8Q%3d&tabid=204.

The print versions should start arriving in local South Carolina libraries soon.

This is a great resource for SC Seniors and/or their caregivers; it covers topics related to:

And an entire portion is devoted to a Community Resource Directory.

Even if you’re not yet a Senior or caregiver, you may want to look into some of these sections. The information is really helpful and easily accessible. Plus, it’s never too early to start planning.

~RFW

South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program – SC HELP

Are YOU a Homeowner who is Facing Foreclosure Due to:

Unemployment,

Underemployment,

Reduction in Self-Employment Income,

Death of Spouse,

Catastrophic Medical Expenses, or

Divorce?

If so, there may be help for you via SC HELP, see SC HELP Flyer.

Monthly Payment Assistance:

  • makes monthly payments while you are seeking employment and a return to self-sustainability

Direct Loan Assistance:

  • pays up to $20,000 on past due mortgage to bring it current

Property disposition assistance:

  • provides $5,000 to help transition families from homeownership to rental housing if:

1. Application with SC HELP completed FIRST
2. Permission for short-sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure granted
3. Money distributed AFTER execution of deeds completed

South Carolina has been awarded, $295,431,000 in funding from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Funds to prevent mortgage foreclosure.

SC Housing Corp., a non-profit Division of the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority is administering the Program, known in SC as the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program or SC HELP.

South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) is one of the housing processing agencies for SC HELP.  SCLS assists homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure gather and submit the required documents to be approved for mortgage assistance through SC HELP.

The list of documents can be found here - SC HELP Required Documents List

There are no income requirements for SC HELP and all services are free to the homeowner.

SC HELP will not pay any more than $20,000 on the arrearages.

SC HELP may approve payment of the $20,000 but the actual payment will not be made until SC HELP has verification that the homeowner can pay the balance of the arrearages or that it has been forgiven by the lender or it has been placed at the end of the mortgage.

The requirements for the property disposition assistance program should be carefully reviewed.

NOTE: A homeowner is not eligible for this program if the property has already been sold at foreclosure.

Homeowners may call South Carolina Legal Services toll-free at 1-888-257-1988 Or 1-855-HELP-4 SC

Homeowners may also submit an application at www.SCMORTGAGEHELP.com

For more detailed information about SC HELP, please see Information Flyer

For more information about SC Legal Services, please see SCLS General Brochure

~RFW

Reporting Your Pro Bono Hours

Seeking Comments from South Carolina Attorneys!

The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Committee and the South Carolina Supreme Court Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission are seeking input on proposed changes to Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct (SCACR 407).

This rule concerns the provision of pro bono service to individuals of limited means or public service/charitable organizations. The proposed changes include the creation of a reporting mechanism for pro bono hours and a requirement that those hours be reported to the Bar.

Pro bono participation remains voluntary.

Click here to view the proposed changes to the rule. Should Rule 6.1 be amended in the future, the Bar would provide additional information to facilitate the reporting.

Please send comments on the proposed changes to Cindy Coker, Public Services Director or Stuart Andrews, Vice- Chair of the SCATJ Commission.

Comments should be received no later than Friday, November 5.

Friday Wrap 5.29.09

All the week’s “atj” newsworthy items wrapped up

Friday Wrap Friday Wrap

Texas – Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation Recognize Major Contributors to Texas Legal Aid

Chicago, Illinois - ABA Invites Obama to it Annual Meeting

Washington, D.C. – 2nd ABA National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities (Hurry for the EARLY BIRD special because after June 1st the registration increases)

United States Supreme Court – President Obama nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court (For more news links, click here. For blog coverage, click here.)

Brooklyn, New York - A Call for Pro Bono at Boro Hall

Lexington, Kentucky – Interview with a True Change Agent

Nashville, Tennessee – New Legal Advice Clinic to Help with Debt Issues

Richmond, Virginia - LINC Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers

Public Justice Center – Donor Inspires Us with $10,000 Gift 

Ventura County, California – New County Program Helping Low-Income Families Adopt

 Winston-Salem, North Carolina – Practical Paralegalism: Paying it Forward

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Credit Card Reforms Could Help Statements

Fairfield, Connecticut – Hard Times Force People Into Family Court “Solo”

Honolulu, Hawaii – Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher Supports Access to Justice Commission

Australia – Pro Bono Work Good for Law Students

New York, New York – Pro Bono Recruitment Drive

San Diego, California – Law Made Public: Legal Research Class for the Self-Represented Litigant

-RFW

Have you been a Victim of Identity Theft?

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Identity Theft has become a common term in society these days. This is why the preceding story about the SCLS client is so important. It is heartening that entities exist to assist us when we become victims of this crime, but it made me wonder “Have you been the victim of identity theft?”

Last year a good friend of mine had her identity stolen. It has taken her almost the entire year to straighten out her credit. It was a complicated mess for her.

My brush with identity theft has been brief. Recently upon a review of credit card charges, my husband asked if I’d purchased anything from Mexico. I hadn’t. We immediately placed a call to our credit card company to dispute the charge. We will complete the necessary paperwork, the card in question was immediately destroyed (shredded at our house and placed out of circulation at the card company) and we were issued a new card and number. We were lucky.

 

  -RFW

PS – If you think you have been or may be the victim of Identity Theft, check out the following Online Resources:

SPOTLIGHT on SOUTH CAROLINA LEGAL SERVICES

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SCLS helps Man recover from identity theft

Most of us are aware that from time to time bad things happen. Root canals, bad. Roof needs repair, bad.

Identity theft with the IRS knocking on YOUR door for back taxes on income YOU never saw, hide-under-your-bed bad.

Here’s the scenario:

You enter the USA on a K-1 visa, also known as the Fiancé(e) visa. English is not your first language, but that’s ok, you’ve got some time to learn it. And you marry according to plan and begin working in the USA with a properly issued Social Security Number. You’re not making a lot of money, but you’re in the United States with your new bride. Ah, life is good.

THEN it happens. Your identity is stolen. Someone is using YOUR new social security number. As if that’s not bad enough, they’re reporting THEIR income on YOUR number. AND now the IRS wants YOU to pay income tax on this other reported income.

Where do you turn? What if you’re not making enough money to hire a private attorney?

South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) recently had the opportunity to rectify this very scenario. In 2001, a Spanish-speaking person entered the United States on a K-1 visa, married later that year and had someone else report their income under his social security number. The IRS requested the income tax for this other person’s income.

With assistance from Roger Watkins, the SCLS Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Coordinator, SCLS attorney Jada Charley, who speaks Spanish, followed the rules and properly provided the IRS with documentation to establish a case of identity theft. As a result of Ms. Charley’s intervention, her client will receive a check for $2,236.74 from the IRS, which is the amount that was withheld from her client’s plus interest.

IDENTITY THEFT is a growing issue, both in South Carolina and nationally. It is heartwarming to know that SCLS takes these cases and gets real results for South Carolinians with low-income who are victims of identity theft.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from identity theft, visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.

Good job SCLS!

-RFW