Pro Bono Fair connects lawyers & service providers

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Cooley Center in Lansing was the setting for the fourth and final Pro Bono Fair sponsored by the State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative (PBI). Lawyers who came to the Fair were able to speak directly with representatives of a variety of legal services organizations about the pro bono opportunities available. The event was held on October 17th.

Julie Fershtman, President of the State Bar of Michigan (SBM), thanked those who came to the Fair and explained why Pro Bono services were needed; "More people are in need. It is estimated that three million residents are at the poverty line or below--that's one out of three residents. They are retirees, Veteran's, the disabled, abused and neglected children; the needs are so great that legal aide organizations are maxed out and are turning people away."

"We can help meet that need," she said, "by accepting three cases or donating 30 hours of pro bono service or sending a check for $300 or more to the SBM Access to Justice fund. Those are the aspirational goals and some do much more."

Surveys indicated that 66% of Michigan Lawyers take pro bono cases and 30% donate money, she noted. "We (lawyers of Michigan) are uniquely capable" to provide this service to the community."

Ten service agencies with contact information attended the fair including:

* SBM Access to Justice Fund, Linda Rexer, Linda@ msbf.org

* Advent Hours Ministries, Inc., Susan Cancro, secancro @ameritech.net

* Community Legal Resources, Justin Sheehan, jsheehan@cironline.org

* Elder Law of Michigan, Brad Vauter, info@elderlawofmi.org

* Homeless Assistance and Prevention Project, Cynthia Ward, wardc@cooley.edu

* Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Jane Martineau, (517) 394-2985 x 226

* Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Mark Cody, mcody@mpas.org

* Michigan State University College of Law Legal Clinic, (517) 336-8088

* Soldiers to Soldiers Program, Heather Spielmaker, spielmah@cooley.edu

* Sixty Plus Elder Law Clinic, Katherine Bordner, borderk@cooley.edu

* University of Detroit Mercy Veterans Clinic, Alesa Silver (313) 596-0258

Heather Spielmaker, Cooley Pro Bono Coordinator, announced the launch of the Pro Bono Junior Associate Program offering the assistance of an advanced law student to assist an attorney or law firm who is taking on a pro bono case with as much work involved as is desired while under the supervision of the lawyer. The students do not receive pay or credit for the their work, making it truly pro bono. For information on the program contact Spielmaker at (517) 371-5140, ext. 4112 or spielmah @cooley.edu.

For the third year, the State Bar of Michigan has designated October as Pro Bono Month, joining the American Bar Association and many other states in selecting October as a time to highlight the need for and importance of pro bono assistance by lawyers.

Lawyers who provide pro bono assistance make a difference to the clients they help and also to their communities: helping a domestic violence victim prevents injury and costly medical expenses and alleviates overworked law enforcement; helping a family keep its home prevents homelessness and the burden on shelters and other charitable and government services; helping a worker prevent wrongfully losing his/her job or wages allows individuals to put food on the table and pay their rent; and keeping a child in school reduces truancy and juvenile crime and saves court time and incarceration costs.

To ensure that your local pro bono efforts are recognized and publicized by the State Bar, contact the Pro Bono Initiative at pbi@mail.michbar.org or (517) 346-6412. For more information on the national pro bono effort, visit www.celebrateprobono.org. For additional ways to provide recognition and tools for lawyers contributing pro bono service and donations, see the State Bar A Lawyer Helps program or contact Robert Mathis, Pro Bono Service Counsel at (517) 346-6316.

Event sponsor was Foster Swift Collins and Smith PC and event host was Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Published: Thu, Oct 27, 2011

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