Guest Blog: Cindy Coker – Keeping the Promise

Keeping the Promise

Cindy Coker

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.

The Pro Bono Program also provides opportunities for lawyers to help educate the public through legal clinics, Law School for Non-Lawyers and Ask-A-Lawyer phone banks.

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?

Pro Bono….Keeping the promise!

Dear New SC Bar Admittees,

j0321176

 November 17, 2008

Dear New SC Bar Admittees,

Welcome to the profession. You have entered the same profession of President-Elect Barack Obama, Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, Alexis de Tocqueville, Franz Kafka, Francis Scott Key, Tim Russert, Justice John G. Roberts, South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Horton Wilkins, and former 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Wilkins to name a few.

Take a few moments to bask in your new role of attorney at law, legal counselor or lawyer (you choose your own term). You’ve worked hard and deserve a moment to reflect on the road you’ve taken and the road ahead. You will hit some potholes (cases you lose, unhappy clients). You’ll have some smooth road (case wins, happy clients). You may even take a few turns (change in practice areas or firms). Just make sure you stay on the road (communicate with your clients, pay your dues, meet your CLE requirements in a timely fashion,  follow the rules) and that you stay alert to avoid accidents (don’t lie, cheat or steal).

Now take a few minutes to think about your responsibilities to the profession. Ok, take a few more.

Now breathe.

You’re going to be fine. Think about mentors – both within and outside your firms. Think about organizing your time. Think about building your networks. Think about balancing your work and home life. Add in some ideas about access to justice – volunteering for the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, signing up to be a PAI attorney with SCLS, or donating to the SC Bar Foundation,

If you have questions, please let me know. I hope you enjoy this profession as much as I.

Best,

Robin

Pro Bono Attorneys for Good

Attorneys have battled image problems for years, but if you get to know some, you’ll find that they’re not as bad as you thought. For example, the Central Penn Business Journal highlightsPennsylvania attorneys who are providing pro bono legal representation.  The term “pro bono” actually derives from the term “pro bono publico” or for the public good. For attorneys, this often means representing individuals or a group for free.

In South Carolina, the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program works closely with the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) that qualifies people for service. If you have a legal problem in South Carolina and believe that you meet income guidelines, please contact LATIS at 1-888-346-5592.

If you are an attorney and wish to volunteer for the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, you can sign up online at http://www.scbar.org/member_resources/pro_bono_program/pro_bono_sign_up_form/. For more information about the program, please see http://www.scbar.org/member_resources/pro_bono_program/.

-RFW