The Pro Bono Committee traditionally celebrates pro bono legal service providers in the cities in which we hold our meetings, and this year’s Spring Meeting in Montréal was no exception. On April 8 the Pro Bono Committee held its Spring 2016 Pro Bono Committee breakfast, where we had the distinct pleasure of hearing from panelists Nancy Leggett-Bachand from Pro Bono Québec, Alexandre Désy from BidSettle, and Julien D. Pelletier from Clinique juridique Juripop.
Pro Bono Québec initiates, coordinates, and promotes free or low-cost professional legal services for the population of limited means in Québec. Pro Bono Québec grew out of the pressing need to improve access to justice and build a formal structure around the pro bono work in which lawyers already engaged. The goal was to create a permanent mechanism to enable participating firms or lawyers to contribute a set number of hours of free legal work each year. These hours are “deposited” in a virtual “bank” of pro bono hours. Pro Bono Québec resulted from a working group assembled by the Québec Bar in the mid-2000s to determine the need for pro bono legal services and to facilitate the creation of a center to oversee such services in Québec.
BidSettle is an online dispute settlement tool developed for both citizens and businesses to help resolve disputes quickly and easily. Although the retail-facing functionality of BidSettle appears modern and accessible, its founder, Alex Désy, developed BidSettle in response to the needs of those who cannot afford a lawyer to assist with the resolution of disputes. BidSettle is an excellent example of a technological innovation attempting to meet the “legal” needs of individuals who avoid the civil legal system because of the cost or time posed in resolving disputes.
Clinique juridique Juripop is a nonprofit organization that fights to improve access to the justice system for all citizens. It promotes the defense of social, economic, and human rights. More specifically, Clinique juridique Juripop offers legal services at very modest cost to people excluded from government legal aid but financially unable to pay for the defense of their rights. Interestingly, Juripop is a social enterprise constantly launching innovative projects to inform citizens of their legal rights and obligations.
In addition to hearing about the work of Pro Bono Québec, BidSettle, and Juripop, the panel and the audience at the breakfast engaged in a lively conversation regarding the current access-to-justice crisis in both Canada and the United States. In addition, we discussed various innovative programs and events that connect lawyers interested in pro bono legal services with the people who need it.
The Pro Bono Committee works toward providing all members of the ABA Business Law Section with opportunities and tools to meet their ethical obligation to provide pro bono legal services. We came out of the breakfast with a plan to develop a “pop up” pro bono business law clinic in Boston during the 2016 Annual Meeting. We envision partnering with the business law sections of both the Massachusetts State Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association to create a unique opportunity for our members to spend an hour or two working with local Massachusetts lawyers, new lawyers, and law students helping low-income entrepreneurs and small business owners with their legal needs.