Georgia Bar Journal October 2015 : Page 38

Pro Bono Local Bar Associations, How Do You #Probono? E by Michael Monahan very year around this time, legal aid pro-grams solicit information from lawyers about civil legal needs in their communities so that legal aid programs can develop service plans for the coming year. We’d like to know your thoughts about pro bono services and about any initiatives of which you are aware in your local community that we might not know about, but we’d also like to ask, how does your voluntary bar association #probono? Yes, pro bono is a verb. Public interest program staff often ask one another, “Can we pro bono this case?” So, you see, it’s an action phrase, one we would like an organized group of lawyers to use. We need improved two-way communication among legal aid programs and local voluntary bar associations. One of the themes I mention in every bar presentation I make is the necessity for communication among the courts, the organized bar and the public interest com-munity. Each plays a role in ensuring access to justice, a critical issue in bolstering respect for the rule of law. Working together, local bars, legal aid and pro bono programs can develop structured approaches to address critical poverty law needs in the community, reduce the stress on courts from ever-increasing num-bers of pro se litigants, and improve the image and likeability of lawyers. In your local community, here’s how you can #probono. Q Step 1: Form a small pro bono committee with-in your local bar association. Your local bar pro bono committee will serve to improve commu-nication among the bar, the courts and the legal aid program. The committee can also develop a pro bono plan for your local bar that includes periodic service projects. The plan can also assist the local legal aid program in recruiting volunteer lawyers and map out how your bar association will tell the story of how its lawyer-members serve the community. Additionally, your pro bono committee can develop resourc-es and other support for volunteer lawyers like CLE programming and volunteer recognition events. Much of this work can and should be done in partnership with your local legal aid program. Check in with the local chief judge of your court for feedback. Georgia Bar Journal 38

Local Bar Associations, How Do You #Probono?

Michael Monahan

Every year around this time, legal aid programs solicit information from lawyers about civil legal needs in their communities so that legal aid programs can develop service plans for the coming year. We’d like to know your thoughts about pro bono services and about any initiatives of which you are aware in your local community that we might not know about, but we’d also like to ask, how does your voluntary bar association #probono?

Yes, pro bono is a verb. Public interest program staff often ask one another, “Can we pro bono this case?” So, you see, it’s an action phrase, one we would like an organized group of lawyers to use.

We need improved two-way communication among legal aid programs and local voluntary bar associations. One of the themes I mention in every bar presentation I make is the necessity for communication among the courts, the organized bar and the public interest community. Each plays a role in ensuring access to justice, a critical issue in bolstering respect for the rule of law.

Working together, local bars, legal aid and pro bono programs can develop structured approaches to address critical poverty law needs in the community, reduce the stress on courts from ever-increasing numbers of pro se litigants, and improve the image and likeability of lawyers.

In your local community, here’s how you can #probono.



Step 1: Form a small pro bono committee within your local bar association. Your local bar pro bono committee will serve to improve communication among the bar, the courts and the legal aid program. The committee can also develop a pro bono plan for your local bar that includes periodic service projects. The plan can also assist the local legal aid program in recruiting volunteer lawyers and map out how your bar association will tell the story of how its lawyer members serve the community. Additionally, your pro bono committee can develop resources and other support for volunteer lawyers like CLE programming and volunteer recognition events. Much of this work can and should be done in partnership with your local legal aid program. Check in with the local chief judge of your court for feedback.



Step 2: Schedule a meeting for your committee members with the pro bono coordinator and managing attorney of your local legal aid or pro bono program. In this meeting, ask your legal aid program to summarize how it accepts and places cases, discuss how the local bar association might aid in recruiting volunteers and other partners and arrange for regular meetings or brown bag lunches to keep the lines of communication open. Your bar members should have a voice in addressing the legal needs of the poor in your community. For a complete list of legal aid and pro bono programs in Georgia, visit www.georgiaadvocates.org/oppsguide/. You’ll find a directory of programs here, just sort by county. The local pro bono contact and email for the program will be listed.


Step 3: Make sure your pro bono committee has a role at your regular local bar meetings—reporting on the good works of your members, soliciting volunteers for cases identified by the legal aid program, obtaining feedback from your membership and resource development networking for your legal aid program.

Local bar leadership changes every year, and so will your pro bono committee membership. Your local legal aid program partner can help keep the committee on track. In your local bar newsletter or website news, be sure to include information on the activities of your pro bono committee. A newsletter is a great way to record and track your progress, and sharing your pro bono activities will go a long way in developing and maintaining good community relations.

Whether your local bar association is small or large, scheduling time to sit down with representatives of your local pro bono or legal aid program will pay dividends. Get answers for your members’ questions about pro bono and legal aid. Discover ways to collaborate and extend scarce legal resources. Make a #probono difference.

If your local bar would like technical assistance or advice on setting up a pro bono committee or planning a pro bono project, please feel free to contact me at probono@gabar.org.

Michael Monahan is the director of the Pro Bono Project for the State Bar of Georgia and can be reached at mikem@gabar.org.

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