Congratulations to all LSBA Pro Bono Awards honorees!
See story and photo gallery at: LSBA Awards
LBF Grant to Help Immigrant Families
The Pro Bono Project was thrilled to accept a check on Thursday, May 18 from the Louisiana Bar Foundation’s Community Partnership Panel. The Project was awarded a $6,705 grant to begin a new program offering pro bono Provisional Custody By Mandate (PCBM) clinics for the immigrant population.
Read the story: LBF PCBM
Americorps Volunteer Coordinator Position
The Volunteer Coordinator will work closely with the Managing Attorney for Volunteer Engagement on several different volunteer-based program.
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.
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.
Standing Up For Justice
Stakeholder Meeting Convenes with the
President of the American Bar Association and the
Area’s Top Legal Minds to Talk About Pro Bono Work
The Pro Bono Project brought together 60+ of the metro area’s top lawyers and jurists to meet with American Bar Association President Linda Klein and Louisiana State Bar Foundation President-Elect Valerie Bargas on Friday, April 7th to talk about how to build a stronger pro bono partnership. The group met at the Hale Boggs Federal Courthouse in the courtroom of The Honorable Jay Zainey, Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.
With Judge Zainey and The Project’s Board Chair, Caroline McSherry Dolan taking the lead, the conversation centered on how private bar attorneys can better partner with non-profits, such as The Pro Bono Project, to serve the growing number of low-income families and individuals who need civil legal problems resolved. This concern may become even more pressing if the proposed federal budget cuts to, or elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) pass in Congress.
“In 2016, The Project provided legal services to more than 2,500 low-income individuals, realizing an economic value to the community of $2.9 million dollars. Our private bar lawyer volunteers donated more than 10,000 hours and closed over 1,200 cases. We’re on track to handle at least the same number, if not more, in 2017,” said Ms. Dolan.
The Justice Gap
The "justice gap" is real – more than 60 million low-income Americans need civil legal services and just cannot afford to hire a lawyer to resolve their legal problem. Nationally, for every 6,400 potential low-income clients, there is only one (1) legal aid attorney; in the private sector, there is only one (1) private attorney providing volunteer legal services for every 429 potential clients.
"‘Justice for all' is not just a pretty phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance. It is a promise we make – and keep – to every American,” said the American Bar Association’s President Linda Klein.
Ms. Klein went on to address how organizations like The Pro Bono Project keep the doors of justice wide open for those who need it and why private bar attorneys have an obligation to share their legal expertise to those underserved within our communities.
“We can all admire what organizations like The Pro Bono Project do, and the service they inspire, and the ABA was proud to provide seed money toward its founding more than 20 years ago. Since then, The Pro Bono Project has brought hope to survivors of domestic violence, obtained help for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings, protected senior citizens from exploitation, and alleviated stress and anxiety for thousands of poor Americans.
“Many attorneys take pro bono cases because it reminds us of why we began practicing law in the first place – to help others. And it reminds us of our Constitutional obligation to advance the cause of justice and the rule of law. It makes good moral sense. It makes good ethical sense. And research has shown that what makes good moral and ethical sense, happily, improves business results,” Ms. Klein noted.
The Impact of Poverty In Louisiana
“Nearly 20% of Louisiana citizens live in poverty. We rank among the highest in the nation. Louisiana is one of only a few states in which civil legal services receive no state appropriation of funds.
"For the last six years, civil legal aid organizations in Louisiana sustained a significant drop in state and federal funding while the poverty rate has increased. These funding declines, combined with the high poverty, put our already challenged civil legal aid system in crisis,” explained the incoming Louisiana Bar Foundation President Valerie Bargas.
At the request of the Louisiana Legislature, the Access to Justice Commission conducted an Economic Impact and Social Return on Investment Analysis (SROI) funded by the Louisiana Bar Foundation to determine the economic impact on the state of dollars spent on Louisiana’s civil legal aid providers. The SROI showed that the dollars invested are well spent, and deliver unmistakable economic returns to the state. Key findings include:
- In the fiscal year 2016, Louisiana's civil legal aid organizations assisted 26,437 legal matters, consisting of over 100 types of civil legal problems including family law, housing, healthcare, public benefits, consumer protection, community support issues, government and legal system issues.
- The net economic impact value resulting from Louisiana civil legal aid activities during the year totaled $93,977,000.
- The total net social return on investment for Louisiana’s civil legal aid programs during the 2016 fiscal year was 873%.
- For every $1.00 invested in Louisiana’s civil legal aid services, these programs deliver $8.73 in immediate and long-term consequential financial benefits.
Ms. Bargas went on to give an impassioned plea to the New Orleans bar about the need for more involvement with The Project in taking pro bono cases, noting that the Baton Rouge bar is more active than their New Orleans colleagues. She also reminded the group that as lawyers, they could do what no one else can do – provide legal services. And, while that may seem like a small thing, to someone who needs civil legal help for a problem they cannot solve without a lawyer, it is life-changing.
The New Orleans Caseload and the Feared Impact of Potential Federal Funding Cuts
The New Orleans caseload is the largest in the state. Proposed elimination of LSC funding by the current administration will shift all the responsibility for these cases to the private sector and non-profit groups such as The Pro Bono Project. The Project’s Executive Director, Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, is concerned about the negative impact of these funding cuts on clients, and that is why The Project is working to increase each firm’s pro bono time commitment.
Judge Zainey and Ms. Rizzo-Choi led a lively discussion with attendees on how The Project can better serve the needs of both the law firms and the courts. As expected, law firm leaders did not hold back in their comments, offering ideas to strengthen their partnership with The Project.
One area in which the law leaders asked for help with is in working with the courts to schedule pro bono cases early on the daily docket. Whether part of a big law firm or a solo practitioner, waiting all day to be called on a pro bono case discourages lawyers from wanting to volunteer.
Both Judge Zainey and Ms. Rizzo-Choi spoke about how important it is for the law firm leaders to set an example for young lawyers. “By taking a case or mentoring a young lawyer through a case, leadership demonstrates their support of and helps to establish pro bono work as part of a firm's culture. It also shows that the folks at the top understand the importance of pro bono to the community,” said Ms. Rizzo-Choi.
The day’s event opened the doors to further the discussion about pro bono and how the law firms and individual lawyers within the metro New Orleans area can work in tandem with The Pro Bono Project to address the continually growing legal needs of our community.
In the coming weeks, staff and board members will follow-up with in-person visits to extend the conversation. It is our intention to find ways in which The Project can help the firms and their individual lawyers take a more active role in what the ABA's President, Linda Klein said is "our Constitutional obligation to advance the cause of justice and the rule of law."
Photos: Jennifer Rizzo-Choi
Tags ABA, ABA President, Linda Klein, Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, Jay Zainey, pro bono, The Project, The Pro Bono Project, Sherry Dolan, Caroline McSherry Dolan, Valerie Briggs Bargas, Valerie Bargas, Louisiana Bar Foundation, LSC, Legal Services Corporation, federal funding cuts, caseload, SROI, economic impact, civil legal aid, civil legal aid funding, civil legal services, 873%, social return on investment, doors of justice
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.
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