NEW YORK (April 25, 2008) – LAWFUEL – As National Volunteer Week begins, Pro Bono Net, a national non-profit dedicated to increasing access to justice, recognizes the thousands of volunteer lawyers across the country without whose help low-income people would be unable to achieve access to justice.
“Pro bono attorneys make a difference in millions of lives each year,” said Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net. “We honor them for their commitment and dedication to public service.”
Each year millions of poor people face legal problems every year without the means to afford an attorney. According to the Legal Services Corporation’s 2005 report, Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans, legal aid offices nationwide can address only twenty percent of the estimated legal needs of low-income people in the United States each year. Pro bono attorneys play an invaluable and effective role in addressing this justice gap. Some recent examples of this include:
· Attorney Crystal Brown of Bryan Cave’s New York City office, in partnership with MFY Legal Services, Inc., helped a man obtain a final order of guardianship for his 14-year-old niece, who had no one else to care for her. The child’s mother had disappeared without telling anyone where she was going, then her father suddenly died. Though her uncle wanted to care for her, the court insisted that the mother be found before the proceedings could continue. Through diligence and persistence, the attorney located the mother in a foreign country and served her with the guardianship papers.
· An attorney working in partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina helped a disabled, 63-year-old widow win a judgment against a self-styled real estate broker who sold her a mobile home that was in fact scheduled for foreclosure sale. The “broker” reneged on his offer to refund the money he collected from the client.
· Attorneys from a New York City firm worked with the Lawyers Alliance for New York and the East River Development Alliance to set up a mobile Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) site where local residents could get help to ensure they obtained the EITC, which can be worth up to $6,000 per family.
Pro Bono Net has more than 47,000 members across the country who have committed to help 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 (April 27-May 3, 2008) provides an opportunity to recognize them for their efforts.
Pro Bono Net’s online platform, at www.probono.net, makes it easy for attorneys 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 160 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/volunteer.
About Pro Bono Net
Pro Bono Net (www.probono.net) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer lawyer participation. Founded in 1998 with support from the Open Society Institute, Pro Bono Net has created a broad and powerful network of nonprofit legal organizations, courts and bar associations across the United States. Its platforms have been adopted in 30 states and regions, reaching approximately two-thirds of the poverty population and lawyers in the United States. Pro Bono Net receives broad support from law firms as well as corporate sponsors including ALM, Epiq Systems and Pitney Bowes. For more information, please visit www.probono.net.
About National Volunteer Week
National Volunteer Week was created in 1974 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order to establish the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Every year since that time, each U.S. President, along with many governors, mayors and other elected officials, has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week. More information on National Volunteer Week can be found at http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/seasons/nvw/.