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

Happy New Year! Welcome 2014

It’s been a really good year for South Carolina Access to Justice! Below is our newsletter that highlights a few items we’ve been working on.

SCATJ Newsletter End of Year 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!

~rfw

Focus on Pro Bono: Celebrate Pro Bono 2011

I’m very proud to don this logo on the SC Access to Justice blog. For the past three years, the American Bar Association has hosted this powerful, national event highlighting the importance of pro bono legal services around the United States.

In South Carolina, we’re proud to highlight some of the work in our own backyard. Throughout the remainder of Celebrate Pro Bono 2011, you’ll be able to learn how South Carolina law students and practicing attorneys interpret pro bono legal services and put it into action.

Many thanks to the American Bar, probono.net and the thousands of attorneys and law students who are celebrating pro bono this week!

~ RFW

It’s official – Poster and FAQs online – en español

Good News!  ¡Buenas noticias!

The South Carolina Courts’ Self-Help Page now offers FAQs (General Questions, Circuit Court and Family Court) and an explanation about what court staff can and cannot in Spanish!

And many thanks to student volunteers with the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program and the kind folks at HABLA!

-RFW

Happy Valentine’s Day: USC School of Law Pro Bono Style

I was very excited to hear from Pam Robinson about a project the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program was doing for Valentine’s Day. She asked several attorneys from around the state to complete the following:

I love being a lawyer because . . .

The following is the response:

Fantastic idea and great result!

Why do you love being a lawyer?

-RFW

It’s ON, Mr. Colbert!

Special By Pamela DeFanti RobinsonDirector, Pro Bono Program at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

This morning I received the following email from Ms. Robinson:

Greetings

I am making a concerted effort to help my very good friend Greg Baldwin, the President of VolunteerMatch take down Stephen Colbert in the Spoon to Spoon Challenge!

Yes, Ben and Jerry’s has created a very special and I might add extremely delicious ice cream, BERRY VOLUNTARY.


Enjoy Greg and the great folks at VolunteerMatch’s YouTube debut as they challenge Stephen and his Americone Dream™.

And don’t forget to vote.


Vote often and vote for the BERRY!


You may also spread the word and be part of ice cream history.  It is time to tell SC native Mr. Colbert that friends of the USC School of Law Pro Bono celebrate 20 years of volunteering by voting for BERRY VOLUNTARY.  We are making VOLUNTEERS the WORD!!!

Be creative, be viral, TWEET, go to your Facebook friends, spread the word, don’t just sit there eating ice cream.

Cut, copy, paste this message until your fingers are tired, just spread the word.  Let’s overwhelm Stephen Colbert’s Facebook page with SC comments.

Here is the all important link: http://colbert.vmchallenge.com/

P.S. I promised Greg that within a week I could get him 1,000 SC votes!! Prove me wrong and make that number higher to the 20th power!

Just FYI, in the interest of full disclosure I serve on the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration with Greg.


ONLY 12 DAYS LEFT TO VOTE

Did you know? STUDENT RESEARCH

DID YOU KNOW?

Here’s a good tip for practicing attorneys who want to contribute more pro bono hours, but think that expanding their pro bono work will cause them lots of time in research.

DID YOU KNOW? Law students are available for legal research for pro bono lawyers.

That’s right – the University of South Carolina School of Law Pro Bono Program will provide you with a law student to serve as your legal research assistant. If you need assistance or would like more information, contact Pamela Robinson at 803-777-3405 or Robinson@law.law.sc.edu.

-RFW

Part 3: Alex Paterra

Alex Paterra

Alex Paterra isn’t a native South Carolinian, but that hasn’t stopped him from jumping right in to assist South Carolinians in need.

Alex graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law and started practicing law in 2005. He is a solo practitioner and recently grabbed an opportunity to help people in need while keeping his lights on via the Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) program with SCLS.

Originally Alex envisioned his legal career beginning at the public defender’s office, however, his path led him into private practice with two law firms, but with the downturn in the economy, he chose to start his own firm. His work at SCLS began by volunteering to take their employment cases. He had 5 years of Labor and Employment experience and knew he could help out. Once he had started volunteering, he noted that there was an opportunity for him to assist even more people working as a PAI attorney.

Since November 2009, he has taken on roughly 7 employment cases.

Has this work changed his vision of legal services?

Not really. I had previously volunteered at other legal service entities and consider pro bono a necessity for so many people who can’t even make ends meet.

What should practitioners know about your experience?

Major law firms should donate first year associates to their local legal services’ entity. It is of GREAT benefit to the firm. The associate gets a MUCH quicker immersion into law and learns some great basic skills such as:

  • Quick decision-making;
  • Learning how to distinguish successful cases via a smell-test;
  • Team-building and learning to bounce ideas off each other;

The associates would gain practical, courtroom experience in a more relaxed environment. The associates should be volunteers for a minimum of 6 months to 1 year. Any help is good, but one year of service translates into a great volunteer – for life.

-RFW

Friday Wrap: Pro Bono

Today is the final day to make a nomination for the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Award. And, if you’re one of my Twitter followers or Tweeps, then you’ve seen this touted for a while, with especial fervor this week.

And you may wonder, why the big deal? Good question.

Here’s why I think it’s a big deal:

  1. There are a LOT of attorneys out there (in and out of South Carolina) who are helping people for free every day, including weekends and holidays. Many of these attorneys receive no recognition for their work. And they deserve the recognition by the public and their peers.
  2. Often the general public vilifies attorneys and legal work. Many of us are called greedy and lawyer jokes are common. C’mon, we’ve all heard them. They’ve been around forever, even Shakespeare has a famous line about lawyers. But the truth is, while some – in any profession – go into law to make money, many more go into law to help people. And if they are working in the public sector – government or public interest, their salaries are not their main focus. And for many who enter the private sector, while their salaries are higher on average, they also contribute both money and time with pro bono efforts.
  3. And, last, but certainly not least – encouraging pro bono efforts within the legal community is one of the responsibilities (see Responsibility #6) detailed in the Administrative Order establishing the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. And the SC Bar Pro Bono Program Award Presentation at the annual SC Bar Foundation Gala offers a great opportunity for statewide recognition.

So, if you know an attorney, law firm or program that has provided good pro bono service within the past year, please complete and return the Nomination form. You may just make yourself and someone else feel better. And that’s a good thing, don’t ya think?

-RFW