October 1, 2011 Florida Bar News
Free legal advice clinics to highlight
Pro Bono Week During the National Pro Bono Week October 23-30, volunteers from across Florida will participate in free ask-a-lawyer events dubbed One-on-One Florida.
Organized by the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association, lawyers will analyze and evaluate individual’s legal problems and provide counsel and advice to get them moving in the right direction.
Attorneys interested in volunteering for their local One-on-One Florida programs should contact the pro bono coordinator at their local legal service organization or visit www.onepromiseflorida.org.
September 2, 2011 Florida Bar News
bono campaign posters
When Dorene Yates, pro bono coordinator for Florida Rural Legal Services, delivered a framed “One” poster to 10th Circuit Judge Marcus Ezelle, he was inspired to quote from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
The Florida Bar Business Law Section, in partnership with the One Campaign, sponsored a project to distribute the posters to state and federal trial court judges primarily assigned to handle civil matters. The posters read: “Before you ask me about your case, ask me how you can be the ONE.”
The One Campaign, launched in October 2009 by the Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono, and led by First District Court of Appeal Judge William Van Nortwick, challenges lawyers to “Just take one case; make one promise; represent one client.”
A letter accompanies the posters, signed by Business Law Section Chair Mindy Mora and Judge Van Nortwick, outlining the hope that the judges will display the posters in locations where they can be readily seen by attorneys to raise awareness of the legal needs of the poor.
The Florida Pro Bono Coordinator Association accepted the duty of distributing the posters. Yates, public relations chair for FPBCA, said the group “welcomed the opportunity to meet with the judges, present the posters, and share the pro bono efforts that are taking place at the local level.”
The Business Law Section’s pro bono mission statement is: “To achieve 100 percent participation in pro bono service by BLS members and attorneys in their firms.”
10th Judicial Circuit Launch of the Florida Bar’s ONE Campaign
The oath to “never reject the cause of the defenseless or oppressed” was reviewed by 114 attorneys who attended the 10th Judicial Circuit’s launch of the Florida Bar’s Pro Bono ONE Campaign on Friday, November 5, 2010 held at Grasslands Country Club in Lakeland, organized by Florida Rural Legal Services. Inc. (FRLS) and hosted by the Lakeland Bar Association.
Attorney R. Kent Lilly, President of the Lakeland Bar Association, opened the program with a welcome and introduction to the Honorable J. David Langford, Chief Judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit. Judge Langford then introduced the circuit’s Pro Bono Committee and presented the Tobias Simon Award Nomination from the 10th Circuit to Stephen R. Senn, Esq., of Peterson-Myers, P.A. who had donated over 600 hours in the past few years to pro bono clients.
The Florida Bar’s ONE Campaign Video was shown, featuring Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince and the Honorable William Van Nortwick, Jr. of the First District Court of Appeal, who discussed the unquantified satisfaction received from helping those with low incomes.
The keynote speaker, Mayanne Downs, Esq., President of the Florida Bar, was introduced by Richard Nail, Esq., the 10th Judicial Circuit Member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors. Attorney Downs encouraged attorneys to calendar their oath annually and review it to remind themselves of the importance of assisting the indigent with their legal needs. She challenged attorneys to take a case (or two) pro bono with the theme “One Attorney. One Client. One Promise.”
Don Isaac, Esq., Director of FRLS, addressed the audience and with the assistance of Dorene Yates, Pro Bono Coordinator, handed out awards to thirty-five attorneys who took pro bono cases during 2009 and 2010 as follows: Jack Brandon, Esq.; Joshua Brown, Esq.; William Chambers, IV, Esq.; Samuel Crosby, Esq.; Cassandra Denmark, Esq.; Kevin D’Espies, Esq.; Christopher Desrochers, Esq.; Eva M. Donohue, Esq.; William E. Evans, Jr., Esq.; Christopher M. Fear, Esq.; James "Rusty" Franklin, Esq.; Arthur Charles Fulmer, Jr., Esq.; Margery D. Greulich, Esq.; Pierce J. Guard, Jr., Esq.; Brian W. Haas, Esq.; Suzanne L. Harris, Esq.; Matthew J. Kovschak, Esq.; Chrystal S. Martin, Esq.; John K. McClure, Esq.; James F. McCollum, Esq.; Karen I. Meeks, Esq.; Keith D. Miller, Esq.; Dana Y. Moore, Esq.; Thomas L. Nunnallee, Esq.; Abigail E. O'Connor, Esq.; Andres N. Oliveros, Esq.; Sean R. Parker, Esq.; Daniel F. Pilka, Esq.; A. Renee Pobjecky, Esq.; J. David Pobjecky, Esq.; J. Scott Reed, Esq.; William J. Rinaldo, Esq.; Ira A. Serebrin, Esq.; Stephen R. Senn, Esq.; Mark A. Sessums, Esq.; Breezi Kai Stanislaus, Esq.; and Nicholas J. Troiano, Esq. Other attorneys were recognized in the program for their financial contribution to FRLS.
One attorney, making one promise and taking one case can make a profound difference in the future of those who have nowhere else to turn for legal assistance. It is through the unselfish efforts and voluntary participation of local attorneys that equal access to justice is provided to the indigent of our community.
The Jacksonville Season of Giving and Receiving Begins With ‘Ask-A-Lawyer’
Twenty-three Jacksonville-area lawyers and ten Florida Coastal School of Law students began the Jacksonville holiday season with the opportunity to give and receive by participating in a recent “Ask-A-Lawyer” event, held on November 6, 2010.
“Spending just a few hours with those who are less fortunate can enrich not only the person in need, but the attorney as well,” said attorney L. Lee Lockett. “This event really brought me in touch with the reality that we as lawyers have an awesome responsibility to give back to the community.”
“Ask-A-Lawyer” was held at the Gateway Town Center and was a joint effort of The Jacksonville Bar Association, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Grace and Truth Community Development Corp. (GTCDC), Florida Coastal School of Law, the D.W. Perkins Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Northeast Florida. The event included a team of attorneys giving free legal guidance and advice during individual consultations.
“This is precisely what our legal community should be doing, working together to assist those with limited or no access to professional legal advice in finding constructive solutions to real world problems,” said Mike Freed, president-elect of The Jacksonville Bar Association. “Participating in this type of opportunity is what being a professional is all about.”
Bishop E. M. Johnson, executive director of GTCDC, added, “This service fits perfectly with one of the goals of Grace and Truth to empower people to solve problems and seek help when needed. We appreciate the opportunity to work together with other community organizations to provide this direct legal assistance.”
“Ask-A-Lawyer” attorneys advised and provided compassionate and competent guidance to 97 people while addressing approximately 120 legal issues including family law matters, employment, landlord/tenant issues, wills and estates, criminal law, bankruptcy, foreclosures and more. Translation assistance was offered in both Spanish and Korean by bilingual attorneys and law students. While these numbers by themselves are clear measures of success, it is the comments of the people who came to “Ask-A-Lawyer” for assistance that tell the real story. As one participant remarked,
“You can’t possibly imagine how helpful this was to me. Thank you for being here.” Another left with the comment, “I’m so relieved.”
“It’s rewarding to meet people in a neutral environment and discuss issues that have clearly been on their mind,” said attorney Rachel Chewning. Of course, not every person seeking advice heard exactly what they wanted to hear. “Whether the outcome of the advice is positive or negative, they can at least feel they have been heard in a forum that isn’t always easily accessible and that someone took the time to listen,” admits Chewning.
Karen Millard, FCSL Associate Professor of Lawyering Process, observes, “Participating in ‘Ask-A-Lawyer’ is a terrific opportunity for an attorney to fulfill her ethical and professional responsibilities to provide service to the community. The law students who participate in the event say that they learn a great deal about professionalism by observing the attorneys interact with clients. I believe this is a terrific way for students to perform valuable community service while learning about the legal needs of the underserved and developing the legal skills and gaining the experience necessary to help meet those needs.”
The holiday season brings with it an infectious desire to give time and assistance to others. Why should we let the acts of the attorneys and law students who participated in “Ask-A-Lawyer” inspire us to perform similar acts? “Serving our community in need is our ethical and moral obligation as attorneys,” said attorney Zeina N. Salam. An equally important reason is summed up in the simple statement made by a recipient of services at Saturday’s event: “I’m hopeful again.”
Special thanks are extended to the attorneys and law students who made the “Ask-A-Lawyer” event on Nov. 6 such a worthwhile effort. Attorneys included: Marty Sack Jr., Alessandro Apolito, Seth Pajcic, Rachel Chewning, Mike Freed, Jamie Ibrahim, Shylie Armon, Lee Lockett, Lanesha Sims, Adam Deli, Kara Roberts, Zeina Salam, Satasha Williston, Karen Millard, Dan Bean, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Tom Harper, Carol Miller, Xavier Saunders, Matt Spohrer, Natalie Tuttle, Sheldon Vann and LaTangie Williams.
Law students included: Casee Sills, Candace Jones, Marie Sage, Patricia Ihara, Maria Kwak, Jae Hee Kim, Manuel Souza, Daniel Schooley, Daphne Shaw and Caroline Kubony.
The Florida Bar News
July 1, 2010
Our Opinion: The One Campaign
February 8, 2010
Pro bono work needed now more than ever
At the end of February the Florida Supreme Court will say "well done" to 21 Florida lawyers for their work on behalf of indigent clients. Signaled out for honors in the 2nd Judicial Circuit is Robert Steven Goldman, who is managing attorney at the Madsen Goldman and Holcomb firm in Tallahassee.
Primarily a tax attorney, Mr. Goldman has also been representing low-income clients in family law cases for more than 20 years and has been especially active in the Legal Aid Foundation of the Tallahassee Bar Association, working with clients himself, but also advancing the training of non- attorneys to serve as guardian ad litems for children. Shepherding legislation to make changes in the ad litem training program was a three-year pro bono project, the value of which will live on for years. And there is no telling how many lives have been improved by his more than 660 pro bono hours for which he will be saluted.
But a current Florida Bar President Jesse H. Diner of Fort Lauderdale is putting renewed emphasis on pro bono work among Florida's attorneys — busy men and women who cite, primarily, a lack of time for not taking on clients who cannot pay. Prop bono work isn't required of Florida Bar members, though reporting it is, and a 2008 study showed only half of lawyers are providing free legal services.
Mr. Diner and the Bar are advancing a program to try to make pro bono work more manageable through its "one Client. One Attorney. One Promise" campaign. The One Campaign kicked off in the fall in an effort to make it clear that if each attorney took on just one case and committed to it, the combined effort would drastically reduce the backlog of cases and significantly improve access to justice for Floridians.
Mr. Diner said that in part because of today's breathtaking unemployment rate — now hovering near 12 percent of the Florida workforce — the need for legal help grows as foreclosures, child support issues and divorces are on the increase.
Here in the capital city, where it is joked that we may have more lawyers per square inch than anywhere else in Florida, the One Campaign could make quite an impact, particularly in this region of poor counties and indigent citizens.
"It's really a feel-good program," Mr. Diner said, adding that most attorneys who do pro bono work report enormous satisfaction from it. As well it gives lawyers — and the public — a reminder of the oath lawyers take upon becoming members of the Bar: to "never reject the cause of the defenseless or oppressed or delay anyone's cause for lucre or malice."
Badly needed, satisfying, and now more doable, pro bono work is an honest antidote to all those lawyers jokes that keep going around.
Court kicks off One Campaign
One Client. One Attorney. One Promise.’
By Annie Butterworth Jones
November 15, 2009
Legal services advocates flocked to the Supreme Court to kick off Florida’s Pro Bono Week with the official unveiling of a campaign promoting pro bono work among Florida lawyers.
“We can do better,” said Chief Justice Peggy Quince as she introduced the premise of the highly anticipated One Campaign on October 26. “We hope through this program that we can link one lawyer with one client. We know that we can do this, and we are asking you to help.”
“One: One client. One attorney. One promise.” was developed by Tallahassee consultant Gary Yordon. Event attendees were treated to the first showing of the One video, designed to be a peer-to-peer marketing tool for attorneys already committed to doing pro bono work.
The video features lawyers, judges, and advocates — many of whom were present at the unveiling — discussing both the challenges and the benefits of tackling pro bono cases.
“Just take one case; make one promise; represent one client,” said First District Court of Appeal Judge William VanNortwick, chair of the Pro Bono Legal Services Committee, at the video’s close.
The presentation came after Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp delivered the governor’s proclamation setting aside Florida Pro Bono Week. “Every attorney needs to realize as you go through the day-to-day, that sometimes it’s easy to forget how privileged you are to be a lawyer and to enter the courtroom and to fight for other people,” said Kottkamp.
Kris Knab, executive director of Legal Services of North Florida, admits the need for lawyers willing to do pro bono work is great and getting greater.
“Nationally, we are only meeting 20 percent or less of the need, and we’re turning a massive number of people away,” said Knab. “That is not a great picture, and it’s a picture that’s been made worse by the economic downturn.”
The problem hits close to home. While membership in The Florida Bar steadily increases, a study funded by The Florida Bar Foundation shows that statewide, pro bono hours have remained flat. Foreclosures are on the rise statewide, and budget cuts have placed an extra burden on the courts. The One Campaign and other recommendations provided by the study are intended to increase pro bono participation, alleviating the caseload of both local legal aid organizations and the courts.
“We seek to foster a strong relationship between bar associations in the community and local legal aid service providers,” said Adele Stone, president of the Foundation. “We want to engage the members of The Florida Bar as a whole to commit to a pro bono culture.”
The Foundation is currently following through on several recommendations, including $800,000 in grant funding provided to legal services agencies, pro bono organizations, and legal aid providers. Already $500,000 has been given to eight separate programs, with more grant money to be distributed in December.
Legal services advocates, though, agree: Funding can only do so much.
“For us to maintain a level of services, those checks are important,” said Knab. “But I think there’s a whole different level of satisfaction when someone advocates on behalf of another person.”
That’s why attorneys and advocates alike are counting on the One Campaign to convince Florida lawyers that pro bono cases are important.
“If we have 2 percent or 3 percent growth in pro bono work — or even 1 percent in this particular year — that will be more than Florida has had in a long time,” said Jesse Diner, president of The Florida Bar.
“Just the addition of 2 percentage points of nearly 90,000 lawyers will add up to a lot of cases helping a lot of people.”
More information about the One Campaign and pro bono opportunities can be found online at www.onepromiseflorida.org.
Only about half of the state’s lawyers perform pro bono work
Pro Bono Challenge: Take one case
By Gary Blankenship
Despite a steadily rising Bar membership, pro bono work remains flat and the Bar’s Pro Bono Legal Services Committee is working on a three-pronged attack to improve those statistics.
The committee reviewed and refined its plans at a September 9 meeting during the Bar’s Tampa General Meeting. Those plans include participation in a likely ceremonial session at the Supreme Court at the end of October as part of a national pro bono week celebration.
Judge Van Nortwick “I view this as a three-legged stool. One leg is an outreach to the lawyers of Florida to inspire them to increase their pro bono activities,” said committee Chair and First District Court of Appeal Judge William VanNortwick. “The second leg is reinventing pro bono with legal service organizations. . . . The third leg is to have sophisticated marketing materials that can be used by Bar leaders, judges, and justices in their outreach to lawyers.”
Van Nortwick reported that the ABA has set the week of October 26 as a celebration of pro bono, and Florida is planning to participate. He said he had discussed the matter with Chief Justice Peggy Quince and that the court was tentatively planning a pro bono ceremonial session on October 26.
Tallahassee consultant Gary Yordon outlined the “One” campaign geared to improve lawyer participation. The slogan for the campaign, aimed at getting lawyers to take a single pro bono case, is “One: One client, one attorney, one promise.”
Promotional materials will include a brochure as well as an online video featuring interviews with lawyers and judges about the benefits they’ve received from pro bono work.
Yordon said the videos primarily will be a “peer-to-peer” communication to focus on the benefits from pro bono that attorneys have seen in their professional and personal lives.
Also under consideration, he said, is a poster that could be hung outside judges’ chambers.
“It essentially says, ‘When you come in this chamber, ask me how you can be the one.’ We want judges to be able to tell them, ‘Here’s what you can do,’” Yordon said.
He said the brochures and video could be ready by mid to late October.
Those materials will be part of the community-based pitch that will be made to lawyers, according to Sheila Meehan, pro bono developer with Florida Legal Services, Inc.
She noted the organization, using a Florida Bar Foundation grant, has hired Adrianne Davis to be the coordinator for the new campaign.
Davis, who has already met with several law firms, said the program wants to do more than just make a presentation at a local bar and then hope for the best. “This is not just a professional responsibility that comes for lawyers, but a passion on how we can improve the quality of life,” she said.
The campaign will look at the unique resources of each area of the state — existing pro bono programs, legal aid agencies, law schools, law firms, and local bars — and tailor the program for that locale, Davis said.
“We’re trying to be strategic about engaging not just legal aid organizations, but getting all members of the legal community owning what we’re doing,” Davis said.
To that end, the committee is striving to collect information about every legal aid and pro bono program in the state, both to use in designing an outreach for each area and to compile in a Web site that can help lawyers looking for an opportunity to do pro bono work.
Committee members said it would be good if the site outlined what kinds of pro bono work each program or organization offered, but some said the actual matching of an attorney to a case should be left to the various programs and agencies.
“The experience we’ve had with using the Web site to place attorneys with particular cases has not yielded good results,” said committee member Rob Johnson, executive director of Brevard County Legal Aid. “I think what really the Web site should do is describe opportunities and have attorneys contact the program about taking certain types of cases.”
Paul Doyle, of The Florida Bar Foundation, recounted how the Foundation has awarded eight grants totalling $650,000 including one to the pro bono committee. The Foundation has another $170,000 for further applications, he added.
The grant recipients cover a variety of programs, ranging from helping children aging out of the foster care system to assisting solo practitioners with pro bono services, he said, and also has geographic as well as rural and urban diversity.
When the Supreme Court approved the current aspirational pro bono program about 15 years ago, a statewide system for monitoring the program was established.
“We built something on the theory ‘If we build it, they will come,’ and they did come,” Doyle said of that system. “Unfortunately, they didn’t stay.
“We have to keep the system and the opportunities alive and vibrant.”
The committee’s discussion focused on many challenges to boosting pro bono.
Committee member Robin Rosenberg said the current pro bono plan has circuit committees to oversee local pro bono efforts. While helping to coordinate pro bono efforts, those committees have undermined judges’ traditional role of recruiting lawyers to take on unrepresented parties.
Doyle added, “On the local level, the judges are critical, particularly among smaller firms and individual practitioners. I don’t think it was sustained on a consistent level when this [the current system] was started 10 to 15 years ago.”
“One of the things I hear a lot from lawyers, especially the last couple years when jobs are scarce, is the potential impact of doing anything that’s not job-related to their future,” said Young Lawyers Division President R.J. Haughey. “We need to emphasize that this is good for your career.”
One potential solution discussed by committee members was persuading judges to hear pro bono cases first on their motion dockets. This step, they said, would provide recognition to the pro bono attorneys and reduce the time required by a pro bono case. McLeroy said that’s already done in some Miami courts.
The committee began its work to increase pro bono after a study last year by Kelly Carmody & Associates showed that while the Bar membership is increasing by about 2,500 lawyers a year, the amount of pro bono work in the state has been stagnant for several years. It also showed that only about half of the state’s lawyers perform pro bono work and that 64 percent cite lack of time as a reason for not providing pro bono service.
The committee has been using the report as guideposts for designing its program to boost pro bono.
Yordon said the report shows of the 50 percent of attorneys who do not do pro bono, about half of those are unlikely to, but the other half would be willing but don’t understand how pro bono works.
The program, Yordon said, also aims to build on another finding of the study: Once lawyers begin doing pro bono, they find it so rewarding that they continue doing it.
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