The Silver Lining

As a soon-to-be 3L, the thought of finding a job in today’s economy is very overwhelming.  It’s not just the lack of jobs in the market that frightens me, but also the school loans that I will have to start repaying. 

When I started law school, I thought I might work in a law firm for a while to pay off a sizable portion of my loans and then pursue my real interest in public interest work. This line of thinking is common among my fellow students, and unfortunately, the reality of paying for a legal education does prevent many from taking public interest jobs. 

At an ATJ public hearing this past summer, a South Carolina Legal Services  (SCLS) attorney cited SCLS’ inability to attracted new law school graduates with better salaries as one of the barriers preventing SCLS from expanding its operations and providing more legal representation to the indigent of South Carolina.

While I’m sympathetic with the fact that many associates at large firms are losing their jobs, maybe the  economy will prompt law firms to restructure the way they compensate employees (i.e., smaller salaries in order to avoid layoffs), which in turn may lead more new law school graduates to accept positions in public interest work, knowing that they will not necessarily be passing up a much bigger and better salary that would help them repay student loans.

 Read more about this possible silver lining in this opinion piece in the New York Times.

Alex

The Name’s Bono, Pro Bono

bono

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:

  1. 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.
  2. STAFFED PROGRAMS. This category encompasses LEGAL SERVICES, in South Carolina SCLS, as well as other IOLTA grantees such as Crisis Ministries (homeless), Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation (heirs’ property), CODA (domestic abuse), SisterCare (domestic abuse), SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center (poverty groups and policy), and Low Country Legal Aid to name a few. The Commission would like to expand this collaboration to include entities such as Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A)Catholic Charities,  Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services and others who are providing much needed legal services to people who would otherwise remain disenfranchised. The goal is to collaborate and coordinate in order to serve more while maintaining high quality legal services.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

SOUTH CAROLINA. There have been previous posts about the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, namely that nominations for Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year are due – NEXT WEEK.

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.

And now for Pro Bono news elsewhere:

NY: Found on The Home Equity Theft Reporter – HEADLINE: NYC Pro Bono Effort Training Lawyers In Fight Against Foreclosures. Full story at http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=4&id=25032.

NY: Attorney Adrienne Flipse Hausch of Garden City has been recognized for her outstanding pro bono legal commitment. Full story at http://www.gcnews.com/news/2008/1205/Community/034.html

FL: Found on http://www.suncoast.com (WWSB ABC Channel 7) – “Study: Fla. lawyers lax on free legal service.” Report found at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/documents/2008_Pro_Bono_Report.pdf.

CA: Santa Clara Bar offers Pro Bono Boot Camp tomorrow – found at http://www.probono.net/calendar/event.221637-Pro_Bono_Boot_Camp.

Western Australia: Pro bono work standard practice found at http://www.wabusinessnews.com.au/login.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wabusinessnews.com.au%2Fstory%2F1%2F69039%2FPro-bono-work-standard-practice.

-RFW

Free Workshops

PRO-PARENTSParents Reaching Out to Parents of South Carolina, Inc., is a private, non-profit organization that provides FREE special education information and training to parents, foster parents, and DSS staff.

PRO-PARENTS recently updated their free workshop calendar online at http://www.proparents.org/calendar.html.

-RFW

South Dakota: Endeavor to Educate Self-Represented Litigants

Interesting article while the South Carolina delegation attends the Court Solutions conference about self-represented litigants –http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080909/NEWS/809090323/1001.

As the South Carolina Delegation is learning, self-represented litigants are here to stay. During the conference this week, presenters from other states have advised and educated on ways to assist the rising number of self-represented litigants, appearing not only in the historical “peoples’ court” but also in higher courts including probate, family and circuit courts. Other states have described many actions to assist self-represented litigants in an effort to maintain reasonable efficiency as well as ensure that the documents prepared without an attorney meet minimal standards while at the same time adhering to ethical guidelines.

While many courts have described conflicts, detractors and other barriers, it is refreshing to see that they have perservered. Additionally, SC Access to Justice wishes only the best for the latest South Dakota endeavor.

-RFW