As we celebrate carnival season with family and friends, I am reminded of what makes our community both strong and unique – our creativity, civic pride, and resilience. These attributes make New Orleans like no other city and they contribute to what has made The Pro Bono Project successful over the past thirty-three years. It is a privilege to serve as the 2019 Board Chair and to work with the many lawyers, law students, judges, and members of the business community that enable us to fulfill our mission to provide free civil legal aid to the underserved. Our collaboration and partnerships help us address access to justice issues and the demand for legal services on both a systemic and individual level.
In 2018, the Project closed over 1,100 cases, helping more than 2,100 people. At the Self-Help Resource Centers, staff and volunteers provided legal information to 3,800 people. Pro Bono is a powerful tool to build a stronger and prosperous community. There is a tremendous force multiplier effect when volunteer attorneys are doing pro bono work through an organized mentoring service like The Pro Bono Project. While one staff attorney can handle a direct representation caseload of 100 open matters, that same attorney could mentor 30-50 attorneys. Combined, there is potential to offer legal representation to 200-300 clients through that one mentoring attorney. In this sense, a small organization like The Project can triple its impact.
The Project is in the midst of a recruitment plan to engage new volunteer attorneys in pro bono work. Our goal is to enlist lawyers to devote 20 pro bono hours a year. We have been developing new volunteer opportunities in order to cater to diverse interests. With the support of the local bar and judiciary, we are recruiting both young and seasoned practitioners.
The Project does work across a diverse spectrum of civil legal issues. We have cases in immigration, bankruptcy, consumer debt, estate planning, successions, divorce, provisional custody by mandate, child in need of care, contractor fraud, and others. Many volunteers may only have a few hours and we can assign them to a divorce workshop, consumer debt clinic, or a shift at the Self-Help Resource Center. Other volunteers may want to take on a case, do the research and brief drafting, and go into court, and we can match them accordingly. The Project’s team of attorneys and paralegals serve as subject matter experts and mentors.
I hope that you join us this year in one of our many pro bono opportunities. Thank you for your support of The Pro Bono Project. Our volunteers give their time and expertise to make our community stronger and more just.