When I was a kid, we learned and recited in class the Pledge of Allegiance. The final words,..with liberty and justice for all…carried a powerful message. And for an 8 year old, justice meant playing fair in games and not picking on kids – or being picked on.
Several years later (and no, we won’t discuss how many!) I was saying similar words again when I took the new lawyers oath. I will assist the defenseless or oppressed by ensuring that justice is available to all citizens… Wow, what a promise to make!
Recently the Legal Services Corporation released its updated report on the justice gap in America. For every client that a legal services program is able to help, at least on is turned away. I’m not sure who picks up the slack in other states, but in South Carolina, it’s the volunteers of the Pro Bono Program. Since 1986 S.C. lawyers have given hundreds of thousands of hours in pro bono service. Those hours have involved hand holding clients, appearing in court, helping a woman get out of an abusive relationship, ensuring visitation for a father with his children, helping a family keep their home or doing what could be done to make the inevitable less painful.
Unfortunately, the need exceeds the supply. Liberty and justice for all, while the ideal, is not the reality. But, we have a chance to make a difference. We have a chance to keep the promise and close that gap. We just need a little more help! Can we count on you?
This blog has provided a great forum for me to tout Pro Bono and Ask-A-Lawyer programs as admirable programs for attorneys to give back to the community. And sadly, not once did I think of pro bono in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I read the article from the News-Dispatch with great interest and am pleased by the coincidence and timing of the service. It has offered me a chance to rethink my plans for the holiday. How about you?
More than 70 local attorneys will answer legal questions and provide general legal information at no cost at 12 Northwest Indiana locations on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 19.
Talk to a Lawyer Today, a pro bono program to provide legal assistance to the underserved, is a joint annual project of the Indiana State Bar Association, the First Judicial District Pro Bono Committee, and nine local bar associations as a tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
What a glorious tribute to Dr. King and service to people in need!
It seems only appropriate to use a movie theme as we start to close out the year. After all, in Hollywood, this is the time for new releases as well as a time to reflect on movies from the past year. The same is true in the Access to Justice (ATJ) Community.
There are 4 main components to ATJ:
EDUCATION. Education of the Bench, Bar, and General Public about ATJ as well as what’s currently available for people living within the federal poverty guidelines or those living just above the guidelines, but still unable to afford legal representation.
PRO BONO. This category expands to the entire Bar membership, the South Carolina Bar’s Pro Bono Program and law firm pro bono programs, as well as paraprofessional organizations such as the South Carolina Court Reporters Association (SCCRA) and paralegal associations. And Law Students – YOU play a large role as well. Law librarians also play a large role. We are looking to expand existing services and develop new services.
SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS (SRLs). This category encompasses all of the previous components in order to provide quality resources to SRLs as well as develop new resources including forms, clear guidelines, instructional packets, clinics, etc.
None of these components can exist in a vacuum. They must co-exist and coordinate in order for access to justice to become a reality.
Today’s focus is PRO BONO; Pro Bono in South Carolina and Pro Bono elsewhere.
It saddens me that as of this post today there have been NO NOMINATIONS RECEIVED!
Now, I know there are South Carolina attorneys who have volunteered their services in the past year for pro bono. So why aren’t they are clambering for recognitition? Isn’t there at least ONE person who will see this post and nominate someone?
If you are an attorney who has NOT yet participated in the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, let’s address why not, shall we?
LACK of TIME. Did you know that the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program receives requests of all kinds and staff will take into consideration the amount of time you’re willing to spend?
LACK of INSURANCE. Did you know that the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program provides malpractice insurance to ALL of its participants? Even if you are currently unemployed, you will be covered.
LACK of EXPERIENCE. NOT TO WORRY! The SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program has MENTORS! Just request one when you sign up. This also allows you the opportunity to NETWORK and grow in another practice area. AND when you sign up, you are eligible for FREE TRAINING! That’s right – FREE!
LACK of KNOWLEDGE about the PROGRAM. What do you want to know? If it’s not covered on the website, then feel free to call Angela McKeirnan at 803-799-6653 x. 169 or 877-797-2227 x. 169 for more information. She’ll answer your questions.
My job/firm doesn’t allow me to represent individuals. Ok, there are other tasks you can do such as develop manuals, conduct training/clinics in the evening or weekends, ASK-A-LAWYER, be a MENTOR, etc. Just ask.
LACK of MOTIVATION. Did you know that Pro Bono attorneys actually feel BETTER after assisting others? Additionally with all the community good will you’re developing, it may benefit your rainmaking efforts without having to go into overdrive. Try it, you just might like it.
Tomorrow evening, November 19, 2008, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. the public will have an opportunity to call in or log-on to speak or chat with attorneys. WCSC-TV in Charleston is hosting the South Carolina Bar’s Ask-A-Lawyer television telephone bank and web chat tomorrow.