Services We Provide
The Pro Bono Project works with pro bono lawyers in many different civil legal service areas to meet the needs of the clients in the six parishes we serve.
The Project specifically works in key areas of the law on an ongoing basis. We add services in response to an increasing need in the community, usually as the result of a natural or man-made disaster. The civil legal service areas for which we currently provide pro bono services are:
Consumer Rights and Contracts
In these challenging economic times, more and more people seek relief both from mounting debt and from the practices of unrelenting and even hostile debt collectors.
Our clients often lack the skill or experience to interpret the complex language of consumer contracts. They turn to The Pro Bono Project to find out what rights they have and for help in protecting themselves from creditors seeking legal remedies.
The Project’s volunteer attorneys help clients with:
- Consumer protection issues
- Interpretation of contracts and defense when creditors threaten suit
- Managing debt
- Chapter 7 personal bankruptcies
This program is funded in part by a grant from the American College of Bankruptcy and its Foundation.
Family Safety and Stability
Family dynamics can be complex and challenging. A family in crisis may no longer be able to function, and legal action becomes necessary for the safety and security of all. In such cases, The Project is there to help families achieve the best legal resolution. And because children are every community’s most precious resource, they must be supported, nurtured, and protected. The Project operates and staffs a children's law program in Jefferson Parish. The program represents neglected and abused children in proceedings designed to improve their lives. Now, our volunteers and staff do the same for the children of Jefferson Parish, protecting their well-being and ensuring their interests are represented.
Volunteer lawyers provide legal help for:
- Uncontested divorces
- Uncontested child custody matters
- Modification of child support obligations based on changed circumstances
- Intra-family adoptions, in which the adopting adult is related to the child within certain degrees
- Tutorships for minors
- Interdictions for adults
- Name changes for both adults and children
Oil Spill Claims
The Pro Bono Project, in conjunction with legal services providers across the Gulf South, provides free legal assistance to eligible claimants navigating the often-arduous oil spill recovery process. The program is funded by the BP Settlement Authority but operates independently. Staff and volunteer attorneys from across the region of non-profit organizations providing civil legal services advise claimants in the following ways:
- Explaining documentation needed for the claims’ process
- Reviewing settlement offers
- Providing legal advice and assistance about other matters related to their claims
Employment and Wage Issues
The Project has been instrumental in protecting the rights of workers who came to the metropolitan area following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and subsequent storms.
The same unscrupulous contractors who fleeced countless homeowners also let their workers go unpaid for weeks and months.
Many employees were non-English speakers who often did not understand the nature of the work they had agreed to perform or what they were being paid. When they complained, they often were turned over to the Immigration Service, a ruse that freed unscrupulous employers from having to pay back wages.
Whenever a worker’s rights are violated, regardless of the industry, The Pro Bono Project provides help in pursuing back wages owed.
In 2008 The Pro Bono Project was awarded the prestigious Frances Perkins Public Service Award by the ABA's Section of Labor and Employment Law for its Employment and Wage Claim program.
Intellectual property refers to creations of a person’s mind that can be protected from use by other people. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works, discoveries and inventions, and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property rights include patents, copyrights, industrial design rights, and trademarks. The Pro Bono Projects helps clients who want to protect and profit from their intellectual creations by engaging attorneys who specialize in this area to advise clients whether their work is original enough to be protected, and, if so, assist them in the protection process.
Many people avoid thinking about what will happen to their families and loved ones after they die or if they become ill or incapacitated. Lack of planning often leads to bigger problems for those left behind. Many clients of The Pro Bono Project turn to us for help in planning how best to protect their families and other loved ones in the event of death, illness, or incapacitation.
To help clients plan for the future, The Pro Bono Project:
- Drafts wills for the disposition of property after death
- Develops living wills, which specify how much medical intervention the client desires if he/she is close to death
- Enacts a health care power of attorney enabling a person to choose someone to make medical decisions on his/her behalf
- Provides general or specific powers of attorney to appoint someone to manage all or some of a client’s affairs
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Isaac brought severe damage to homes throughout the metropolitan area. Unfortunately, they also brought unscrupulous contractors and others seeking to take further advantage of those suffering in the wake of the storm’s wrath.
These fly-by-night business owners often took hurricane victims’ insurance or Road Home money and then either refused to complete the work or performed it so badly that it had to be redone.
Many residents also became victims of heartless landlords who took their rent and provided sub-standard apartments and services.
The Project works with clients to:
- File lawsuits against unscrupulous housing contractors either to make them complete the work properly or to return insurance or Road Home funds collected for incomplete or shoddy work
- Protect tenants’ rights against unfair housing practices by landlords
- Complete succession paperwork to provide clear title to real estate for collection of insurance or Road Home funds
In addition, because of the special problems of homeowners in Orleans Parish, The Pro Bono Project, in partnership with several other organizations, received a special grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) to help Orleans Parish homeowners with more complex problems related to:
- Title issues, including liens and judgments against the property
- Tutorships and interdictions to manage the property of minors and incompetents
- Transfer of property ownership to those who want to maintain and repair the property and continue living in Orleans Parish.
Some civil law cases defy easy categorization. The Pro Bono Project and its volunteer lawyers are there to help with matters as diverse as:
- Assisting with pension issues
- Reviewing real estate transactions
- Obtaining new birth certificates
- Non-profit incorporations
- Tax questions
- Tort defense
In fact, The Pro Bono Project can offer support with almost any civil non-fee generating type of case in which our volunteers have the expertise and the interest.
As residents of Louisiana continue to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, disputes with dishonest or incompetent contractors, many not licensed to do business, have continued to increase. Many of these claims are for breach of contract, negligence and fraud. The Project assists clients in finding a volunteer who can advocate for them during the construction process to see that their contractual rights are observed, or can bring suit to recover damages for shoddy or unfinished work.