It takes many hands to open doors to access civil justice for those in need. The strong partnership between The Pro Bono Project, its staff and hundreds of volunteer lawyers, paralegals, law students, and other professional and lay volunteers is just the beginning.
Only through collaboration with our partners in the Access to Justice community can the mission of The Project ultimately come to life. As we move forward in 2018, collaboration is at the heart of our agenda, just as it is at the heart of serving our pro bono clients.
The Project’s success over the past 32 years has been through many collaborative efforts to identify and serve the needs of the community. 2017 witnessed the continued renewal and strengthening of the partnerships that are critical in delivering pro bono legal services. Through these efforts, together we are making a difference in the lives of underserved Louisianans.
Working Together For Pro Se Litigants
Building upon our successful operation of the 24th JDC Self-Help Desk, The Project assumed management of the Orleans Civil District Court Self-Help Desk in January. This was made possible through the cooperative efforts of The Project, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Family Justice Center, New Orleans Bar Association, and Louisiana Bar Foundation. Together our partners in the Access to Justice Community enabled The Project to fulfill the Self-Help Desk’s mission to connect people without the means to hire an attorney with available resources including legal information, forms, and referrals.
To do this, we rely on our volunteers – they define us, they make The Project possible. We provide a foundation through which volunteers can access multiple opportunities to give back to the communities in which they work and live. We are grateful to the law firms who quickly answered the call to volunteer at the CDC Self-Help Desk and adopted a month. By supplying volunteer lawyers and staff for one day each week of the month, these law firms demonstrated the spirit of collaboration. See the article: Stepping Up To Help Pro Se Litigants
In addition to the staff members from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and law student externs from Loyola and Tulane, Access to Justice Fellowship recipient Hugh Straub (Phelps Dunbar) volunteers twice weekly at the CDC, which frees up The Project’s staff to work with other volunteers and direct clients to move cases through the justice system promptly.
Volunteers are so vital to us that we dedicate an annual event to applaud the time and talent they give to us and our clients, our Volunteer Recognition Awards, held this past December at Jones Walker.
Collaboration Plays Out in Many Ways
Throughout 2018, we will continue to create stronger ties with our bar association partners that represent the parishes we serve. Members of the New Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. Tammany serve on our Board as Ex-Officio representatives and ensure that we meet the differing needs of these communities.
The Project’s volunteer panel is as diverse as our clients – representing a cross-section of volunteer lawyers – solo practitioners, litigators, transactional and plaintiffs’ attorneys.
We have partners and associates from many of the larger law firms, as well as lawyers from smaller firms who do specialty work in family law, bankruptcy, real estate, immigration, succession and elder law – all areas in which we offer civil legal aid representation. We have volunteer paralegals, translators and others who add to our capabilities.
Since the early days of The Project, we have had strong ties to our local law schools. Following Katrina, the doors opened for out-of-state law schools to send their law students to The Project and 13 years later, they continue to come during semester breaks, over the summer and whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Most recently, the law schools at the University of Wisconsin, University of Missouri, and George Washington University sent students to work with staff and volunteers. While at The Project, the students worked with the staff on many different learning opportunities. They observed court proceedings, attended our clinics, drafted pleadings, and conducted legal research.
These students gain real-world experience in public service law that will translate favorably to the communities in which they will practice law in the future. We continue to hear from law schools across the country. We know that the pro bono work law students do here will forever change them as people and as lawyers.
Come Spend Some Time With Us!
Collaboration is indeed the heart of The Project and all the pro bono legal services organizations in our region. Whether you are a lawyer, paralegal, a non-legal professional or a layperson, whether you're practicing, working or retired and you just want to find a way to give back – we invite you to come spend some time with The Pro Bono Project.
We have many needs, and it takes many hands to open the doors to access civil justice. Whether you choose to work at the self-help desks, handle a case, sponsor a CLE, translate legal documents, help in the office, work behind the scenes at an event or something else, there's no limit to how we can put your time and talent to good use. Through supporting, training, and mentoring our volunteers, The Project will ensure that your experience serves the public interest.
We want to thank Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, who during her two-year tenure as Executive Director, strengthened the foundations of The Project to help us move forward into our next 30+ years.
And speaking of 30 – this year, the Justice For All Ball celebrates its 30th Anniversary so save the date right now, Friday, October 5, 2018, at the Audubon Tea Room, with attorneys Kevin Colomb and Sharonda Williams as JFAB Co-Chairs. They’re working out the details so we’ll have more info on our website, in upcoming e-news, and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We’ll also be jazz-festing our way into GiveNOLA Day on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.
We would love to hear your thoughts about The Project's 2018 Agenda; please drop us an email.
CC Kahr Caroline McSherry Dolan
Executive Director Board Chair