For one week every October since 2009, The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has recognized pro bono civil legal service with its National Pro Bono Celebration (NPBC). Hundreds of events are held across the country annually, by organizations like The Pro Bono Project, to provide direct services to pro bono clients and additional volunteer opportunities for attorneys, paralegals and others. This year, the NPBC runs from Sunday, October 23 until Saturday October 29.
The Project along with the metro area’s other civil legal service providers and our colleagues across the state will spend time next week offering clinics, manning self-help desks and providing CLEs to engage new volunteers to help close the 'justice gap' in the civil justice system.
See what The Project is up to during NPBC week and learn about two FREE CLEs in early November to continue celebrating: NPBC
But, just how big is this ‘justice gap’?
The Legal Service Corporation (LSC) latest report on the justice gap, says that more than 45 million Americans qualify for pro bono civil legal services.
Recent estimates, based on the 2011 U.S. Census, indicate that this number has grown to 60 million citizens eligible for pro bono civil legal services. That’s one in five Americans, who live at or below the poverty line – many of these are children.
- Most have at least one civil legal matter per year that requires an attorney.
- For every client served by a LSC-funded program, one client is turned away for lack of resources – that means 50% never receive the legal services they need.
In a study of nine states:
- Income-eligible citizens often don’t know that there is a legal solution to a problem that they are having.
- They don’t know that they meet the financial eligibility for pro bono or reduced fee civil legal services.
- They don’t know how to access these services
In the 2015 report from TalkPoverty.org, Louisiana has a population of 4.5 million people, with one in five residents living at or below the poverty line – that’s approximately 896,000 residents (19.7% of the state’s population). Children represent the bulk of this group at 27.6%.
In New Orleans, even though those living at or below the poverty line has gone down since 2014, one in four is still higher than the state level and 37% of those are children – almost a full 10% higher than in the state.
What can you do as an attorney or paralegal to help close the justice gap in the six parishes The Project serves?
- Take a case – even if it’s an area of the law you don’t normally practice! We have outstanding volunteer lawyer and paralegal mentors who will guide you through the process.
- Take a CLE – learn a new area of law to help close the gap. We have two excellent FREE CLEs coming up: All In The Family on November 2 and a Child In Need of Care (CINC) Training on November 11
- Spread the word – encourage your colleagues to get involved. We have plenty of clients whose cases simply need paperwork processing. A team of lawyers from a firm or legal department can spend a day or half-day with us and help us close out simple divorce or other straight-forward cases.
- Make a donation – pro bono is only free for our clients – it still takes paid staff to support our volunteers and clients, and handle the administrative details. Our caseload continues to rise and there’s so much more to do. If you don’t have the time to take a case, consider a donation of $100 or whatever you can give -- every dollar helps!
No matter which option you chose from the list above, you’re helping to close the justice gap.
During this week, when the nation recognizes the value of pro bono civil legal service, we applaud all of the legal and lay professionals who give their time, talent and funds to make certain that the door to civil justice is wide open for our clients. We simply could not do this without you!