“Pro bono attorneys are more important than ever this year, with legal aid organizations facing funding cuts while the number of people in need increases,” said Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net. “We pay tribute to them for their dedication to public service and for providing a critical link in creating access to justice for the poor.”
Each year millions of poor people face legal problems every year without the means to hire an attorney, yet studies show that only one in five receives free legal help. Pro bono attorneys play a critical role in addressing this justice gap. Some recent examples of this include:
• In Oklahoma, an attorney working with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma helped restore visitation rights to a slightly mentally challenged woman whose divorce had deprived her of contact with her only child. Time had passed, and the woman's spouse had convinced the boy that his mother had no interest in him. The attorney handled this case all the way up to the Oklahoma Supreme Court where he prevailed in restoring visitation for his client.
• Attorneys in Brooklyn worked with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer Program to staff a twice-weekly consumer debt clinic, which helps low income New Yorkers burdened by consumer debt. Attorneys provide advice and education about how individuals can defend against deceptive and unfair debt collection practices, how to draft legal documents to be reviewed by a judge and what to do when appearing in court. More than 800 people were served at the clinic in 2008, and it’s expected that even more will be served this year.
• A volunteer attorney from rural Georgia settled a complex set of issues for a client whose companion of 15 years passed away suddenly without a will. The pro bono attorney sought to secure rights in the property where the client was living with his companion's grandchildren. The client was also several months behind on the mortgage. The pro bono attorney was able to secure the house for 8 additional months for the client with rent waived for that time, and obtained a cash settlement for the client once he moved out. Most importantly, the volunteer attorney also completed a guardianship on behalf of his client giving him guardianship of the grandchildren for whom he was caring.
Pro Bono Net has more than 50,000 members across the country who are committed to helping low-income people facing issues such as these, as well as domestic violence, employment discrimination, foreclosure and eviction and other serious problems. National Volunteer Week 2009 (April 19-25) “Celebrating People in Action,” provides an opportunity to recognize them for their efforts.
Pro Bono Net’s online platform, at www.probono.net, makes it easy for attorneys across the country to get involved in pro bono work, saving them time and connecting them with opportunities, training events, listservs, and searchable libraries of practice resources they will not find anywhere else. Pro Bono Net also developed and maintains the award-winning LawHelp.org, a site where consumers can find state-based legal referrals, know-your-rights information and a variety of self-help tools. Pro Bono Net works in partnership with more than 200 legal services organizations around the country.
Legal professionals wishing to get involved can join one of the Pro Bono Net sites at www.probono.net. Attorneys can also search for volunteer opportunities around the country at www.probono.net/
About Pro Bono Net
Pro Bono Net (www.probono.net)
About National Volunteer Week
Sponsored by Points of Light Institute and HandsOn Network—the nation’s largest
volunteer organizing network—National Volunteer Week was established in 1974
by former President Richard Nixon and has grown exponentially each subsequent
year, with literally thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled
throughout the week. For more information, see http://www.handsonnetwork.org/
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Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit organization that works to increase access to justice for the millions of poor people who face legal problems every year without help from a lawyer.