GiveNOLA Day: May 2, 2017
Mark your calendars and come jazzin' with The Pro Bono Project on May 2nd when all of us give as one. There are lots of new opportunities to give - check it out on our GiveNOLA page.
More info: GND 2017
Save the Date
The 29th Annual
Justice For All Ball
September 15, 2017
8:00 pm to midnight
Audubon Tea Room
The JFAB 2017 event page is up: JFAB 2017
More details will be available soon.
We are seeking an outgoing, self-starter to provide critical administrative and program support to our legal services operation. This role will serve as the funnel point for most of our cases, as the Intake Coordinator’s primary function is to interview and screen potential clients for legal services.
2016 Volunteer Recognition Awards
It was a terrific CLE followed by the annual Volunteer Recognition Awards and Reception hosted at Jones Walker on Thursday evening, December 8.
Congratulations to all the 2016 awards recipients. Many thanks to our outstanding CLE panel, Jones Walker and to all those who attended.
Cases, Clinics and Success Stories
New Volunteer Opportunity
The Pro Bono Project has taken the lead in managing and recruiting volunteers for Self Help Resource Center (SHRC) at 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish beginning on April 19, 2016.
See the full story: 24th JDC
To volunteer, please email Managing Attorney for Volunteer Engagement, Kathleen Legendre or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org 504.581.4043 Ext. 207.
In commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we pay tribute to the many people who came to the aid of The Pro Bono Project in the days after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of our beloved City. Read the Community Thank You letter.
We recount some of the many stories from the moment when we realized that both our clients and our volunteers were spread across the country, as was our entire population, right up until the present day.
While Hurricane Katrina is long gone, the aftermath still lingers on.
Read stories on our Hurricane Katrina Retrospective page.
CLE Credit for Pro Bono Hours
Read about the new rule taking effect on May 1, 2015 in the latest from CityBusiness.
Congratulations to Adams and Reese attorneys, Martin Stern, Jeff Richardson and Ron Sholes, retired Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Harry T. Lemmon and Louisiana Appleseed for their combined efforts to move this proposal forward.
Read the entire rule.
From The Project's Chair and Executive Director: Setting the 2017 Agenda
Building a stronger culture of pro bono within the six parishes served by The Pro Bono Project, and across the state of Louisiana sets the stage for 2017 as a year of collaboration, community, and access to justice.
At the same time, The Project will take a cue from the national dialogue on access to justice (“ATJ”) and what that means to us as individuals, and as an organization.
We are working hard to make sure that 2017 will be a year of increased volunteer recruitment and enhanced pro bono mentoring for our volunteers.
As a part of all this, we plan to use some key events to begin a larger dialogue about how all Louisiana lawyers can work with us to close the justice gap.
The justice gap is larger than you realize…
As we look at the potential political and economic landscape taking shape, there is without a doubt a growing need for legal aid. In the past, those in need of pro bono, or reduced cost civil legal services, tended to be those adults, children, seniors, veterans and homeless who live at or below the poverty level. But we have seen this changing in the last several years – more and more people in populations that typically do not fit this picture may now fall into this gap.
In LSBA President Darrel Papillion’s President’s Message in The Louisiana Bar Journal’s December 2016/January 2017 Access to Justice issue, page 256, [LINK: ] he described a hypothetical 30-something couple, Mary and John, living the American Dream: two kids, a house, nice car, well-paying jobs, some modest savings and so on.
He points out that Mary and John are not the typical people who may face an “Access to Justice” problem. We likely picture a single mom working the night shift, the uneducated, the elderly with credit or Social Security problems, tenants with landlord issues, victims of domestic abuse, or veterans in need of help with benefits. In fact, our picture is of the poorest among us, not the Marys and Johns of the world. Mr. Papillion concludes his scenario with this chilling thought:
Our perception of the “Access to Justice” problem may be at the heart of one of the biggest challenges facing the legal profession, courts and the general public for years to come. Are we reaching a point where most Americans cannot afford lawyers? Surely this is a scary thought. But, let me phrase it another way — how many of us could afford ourselves? [emphasis added]
And it is that perception of “Access To Justice” (ATJ) that is driving The Project to focus more on how we presently serve our community, clients, and state -- and how that may change as populations in need change.
Collaborating with our fellow non-profits on Access to Justice
Our focus today is on what must we do to collaborate more with our fellow non-profit organizations, and how we can begin to reshape the culture of pro bono in Louisiana to ensure that access to justice is more than just a lofty platitude.
Board Chair Caroline McSherry Dolan, along with many of The Project's current and past board and staff members have been actively involved in the ATJ community by attending meetings and an ATJ summit to move the discussion around these issues into actionable programs.
“As the largest volunteer-driven pro bono organization in the state, we are at the forefront of access to justice. Just one visit to The Project’s offices or a few hours spent at the 24th JDC Self Help Desk and you can see first-hand exactly how many people – families, individuals, children, etc. – are caught in the justice gap. For many who do not meet the rigorous income requirements to be eligible for pro bono, they are forced to represent themselves.
“We serve as the connector between lawyers/law firms and clients and that is our primary role. But, as important, is our ability to collaborate with the many other civil legal aid providers to create a single-minded and determined voice, which brings this story to greater attention within the legal community, as well as the business, governmental and community-at-large. We are prepared to take a leadership role to shift the discussion and the culture around pro bono and access to justice – to produce action from our words,” explains Ms. Dolan.
In a recent meeting with Louisiana Bar Foundation (LBF) Vice-President Valerie Briggs Bargas, she described The Project as “an island of blue in a state of red” to Executive Director Jennifer Rizzo-Choi. She praised The Project for the number of cases it handles annually with only a staff of eight, a $700,000 budget, and in 2016, approximately 400 active private bar volunteers. The Project, a creation of the LBF, forged a pro bono path over 30 years ago where no one thought it possible.
“We are wholeheartedly committed to serving our clients and the community through volunteer private bar attorneys and strengthening this unique model that has worked well for both volunteers and clients. In 2016, we opened 2,172 cases, closed 1,206 of those and served about 3,000 individuals and families. Many of those cases are simple – requiring 8-10 hours from a volunteer, other cases are more complex and time-consuming, and a small percentage of our volunteers are available to take those on.
“One area that we will continue to expand is in supporting, mentoring and training our volunteers – without them, there is no pro bono. We want more of our volunteers to take an active role in closing the justice gap in our community. Take a case, serve at a clinic, mentor younger attorneys, share your knowledge through a CLE – The Project is that place where the legal community can get involved on a one-on-one level with the community at large and with their colleagues,” says Ms. Rizzo-Choi.
The Pro Bono Project is a resource …
Where else can a young attorney get trial experience? Who else offers attorneys the opportunity to expand their skills into a different area of the law? Or provide younger attorneys with experience in a variety of legal areas from which they may choose to steer their careers? Or offers law students a way to see first-hand how the theories and case law they are studying translates into legal realities? Or brings lawyers directly in contact with people they would never meet in their offices and who end up reminding those lawyers about why they chose to become lawyers?
These are but a few of the roles The Project plays in the bringing the culture of pro bono to life for lawyers, law students, other legal professionals and the community at large. While service to clients is our primary role, it is also our job to educate, nurture and be a resource for those in the legal profession who want to serve the public interest in this way. Through all of this, we want to encourage them to bring the message of pro bono to others. Pro bono is a powerful avenue to raise awareness for the entire community about access to justice issues, and how important an active pro bono legal community is to growth, prosperity, and justice for all.
Upcoming events will put the focus on pro bono
As part of our efforts to celebrate the power of pro bono in our community, we are also engaging some key national and local leaders to help us.
In April, we are hosting an access to justice-themed event featuring the current American Bar Association President, Linda Klein. Ms. Klein is intimately involved in the national ATJ discussion and will bring it down to the ‘you and me’ level for our guests. We’ll have more details in the coming weeks.
As well, even our 2017 Justice For All Ball will reflect an access to justice theme through our Honorary Chair: Chef Leah Chase. This local icon, business leader, and chef is well known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. But, many may not remember that Mrs. Chase, along with a group of her contemporaries, was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in New Orleans.
Her restaurant Dooky Chase's was one of the only public places in the city where African-Americans could discuss meet and discuss strategies during those days. As is the custom in New Orleans, over good food with close friends,
Mrs. Chase and many others worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Riders to forward the cause of justice in this country. Her contribution to securing voter registration within the African-American community and a host of other civil rights-related activities are too numerous to recount here but you can read more about her at: Leah Chase
Setting an ambitious agenda in 2017
While this may seem an ambitious agenda for 2017, it is our hope that working together with our fellow civil legal aid providers, the private bar, and law firms will foster a greater understanding of pro bono and access to justice issues, here and across the state. By bringing all these groups together in a way that serves our profession, we further believe that our resulting activities will positively affect our clients and volunteers, while elevating our community to a greater commitment to the cause of justice for all.
Tags 2017 JFAB, 2017 Agenda, Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, Leah Chase, Dooky Chase's, volunteers, pro bono, Linda Klein, ABA, Darrel Papillion, LSBA, Louisiana State Bar Association, The Louisiana Bar Journal, justice gap, Access To Justice, ATJ, Sherry Dolan, Caroline McSherry Dolan, LBF, Valerie Briggs Bargas
Dear Friends of The Pro Bono Project ...
As 2016 winds down, change is in the air – change that is sure to affect our organization, our volunteers, and our clients in the new year.
Of most pressing concern are possible cuts to civil legal aid funding beginning in 2017. Because of likely funding shortfalls and potential changes to federal policy, our clients will struggle more to access justice; and worse yet, they may be denied the services they need to provide shelter and food for their families.
One thing is certain: our clients will continue to turn to The Pro Bono Project to help them navigate the judicial system, and we will do our best to give them the help they need.
Every year hundreds of lawyers generously donate their time to The Pro Bono Project to meet the needs of underserved Louisiana residents grappling with complex and costly civil legal issues. Those issues are as diverse as the clients themselves, and the lawyers who step up to help them are true local social justice champions.
Without The Project, many of our fellow neighbors would not have access to justice. DONATE NOW
From Our Executive Director: Serving Our Clients
I’m still processing what happened on Election Night, and I am sure that you are too.
There’s been a nervous buzz in the legal services community about what the changes in Washington could mean for our legal work. It is possible that there may be drastic cuts to legal aid funding lines.
There also could be some policy changes put into effect that impact our clients’ lives – whether that means cuts to welfare programs, access to healthcare coverage, or other basic rights.
While a lot of that is still uncertain, what is clear is that social justice work is more important now than ever.
Our clients rely on pro bono civil legal representation to help them access justice and the civil court system. They don’t have the money or resources to afford paid counsel. Our clients depend on pro bono representation to help them obtain a custody order or a divorce, resolve an estate matter or avoid deportation to a country swept up in violence and turmoil.
Pro bono lawyers can have a tremendous impact on someone’s life – their volunteer commitment can literally alter the course of a client’s life.
Watch Jenny and Seth on WDSU-TV, Saturday Morning News, September 10, 2016
Sponsorships are still available that include tickets to the spectacular Patron Party, planned by the Honorary Co-Chairs Gary Solomon, Jr. and Seth Bloom, Esq., and produced By Solomon Group. Check out the JFAB 2016 page for tickets and sponsorship and other information.
Register for and preview the auction items at: JFAB 2016 Auction