Pro Bono Services Essential 11/17 11/21/17 5:00:01 PM
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Pictured are Creighton Law School Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic Katelyn Cherney, staff attorney, and Brian Edwards, Senior Certified Law Student. – Photo Courtesy of NSBA
Pro Bono Services Essential
A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest.
Justice for Our Neighbors (left to right) Mindy Rush Chipman, Senior Managing Attorney, Israel Garcia, Jr. Immigrant-Focused Medical Legal Partnership Paralegal and Virginia Maynes, Child Welfare Managing Attorney. – Photo Courtesy of NSBA
Preamble to the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct“As lawyers, we have a special responsibility to provide pro bono legal services. However, as legal employers in recent years have had to adapt to an ever more competitive legal market, lawyers’ opportunities to do pro bono work and public service have diminished,” stated NSBA President Tim Engler in a personal message to Nebraska Lawyers at the close of National Pro Bono Week, on October 27, 2017.
National Pro Bono Week
‘Lawyers in the City’
Engler closed his message with a thank you while answering this important question, “Law firms, corporate law departments, government offices and other legal employers know that the answer to this question is crucial to the profession’s future and the well-being of society. Lawyers now need more balance in their work to improve job satisfaction and hone important skills, and the poor in our country are suffering without adequate access to legal services. Pro bono service can help address both problems.”
Omaha area lawyers and nonlawyers kicked off National Pro Bono Week by participating in the third “Lawyers in the City” pro bono event, a one-day, walk-in clinic coordinated by the Volunteer Lawyers Project in collaboration with Creighton Law School Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic, Justice for Our Neighbors, Legal Aid of Nebraska, Midlands Bar Association, Omaha Bar Association, the Women’s Center for Advancement and the Metropolitan Community College Student Paralegal Association. Teams of volunteer lawyers, law students, paralegals and paralegal students met with low-income residents to provide free limited advice on consumer, family, and immigration law issues, distribute Nebraska Judicial Branch self-help forms, hand out brochures and information on select legal topics and to give visitors information about no or low-cost legal aid and legal service programs. The event was held at the Metropolitan Community College South Omaha Campus. Spanish and Mandarin speaking visitors had an opportunity to meet with bilingual lawyers and paralegals.
NSBA Participation – VLP
Connecting people with a volunteer lawyer is the core of NSBA Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) programs. Too often, the people who most need full legal representation are those who can least afford to hire a lawyer. Pro bono legal representation impacts the client, the client’s family, the community and the lawyer. Since its launch in October 2016, more than 115 lawyers have registered to provide limited scope legal services online to qualified low-income Nebraskans through Nebraska Free Legal Answers www.NE.FreeLegalAnswers.org, administered by the NSBA VLP.
Nebraska was among 42 states participating in the national program, hosted by the American Bar Association. According to Carol Cleaver, Director of the VLP, users from 38 Nebraska counties have posted 477 civil law questions online since the inaugural launch of the website. Users must be Nebraska residents 18 or over, cannot be incarcerated, and must meet low-income eligibility requirements. Nebraska Free Legal Answers allows Nebraska lawyers to participate pro bono work online, anytime and anywhere there is Internet access. The lawyer’s identity is not disclosed to the user, services are covered by the ABA’s malpractice insurance, and lawyers select the questions the lawyer wants to answer. Lawyers interested in pro bono work that is convenient, rewarding, and impactful can register on the website or contact Carol Cleaver at VLP@nNEVLP.org or (402) 475-7091.
Nebraska Pro Bono Summit
November 17, 2017
Nebraska’s inaugural Pro Bono Summit will be held at Creighton University School of Law Friday, November 17th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The purpose of the Summit is to bring stakeholders together to discuss the current delivery of pro bono services in Nebraska and to address the need for collective efforts to serve people who need, but cannot afford adequate legal assistance in Nebraska. Participants will join together in a “Call to Action” to implement a plan to increase pro bono services to narrow the gap in services. The event qualifies for 3.25 hours of Ethics CLE. The registration fee is $25 and space is limited.
Lawyers interested in attending the Summit can register to attend the Summit on the NSBA website at www.nebar.com, CLE.
This event is sponsored by: ABA Retirement Funds, ACLU of Nebraska, Creighton Law School Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic, Disability Rights Nebraska, Husch Blackwell, Jackson Lewis, Justice for Our Neighbors, Legal Aid of Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed, NSBA Public Law Interest Section, NSBA Volunteer Lawyers Project, University of Nebraska Law School Civil Clinic, and the Women’s Center for Advancement.
A Policy Level Discussion with the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service will be held on Thursday, November 16th 3:30 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.
“Lawyers today grapple with a difficult dilemma that previous generations of lawyers were spared: how to meet the demands of modern law practice and still fulfill their idealism and professional responsibility to give back to their communities,” said Engler.