Involving volunteers from outside of the legal profession can enhance the services a pro bono program provides, both for clients and for volunteers. Services can be enhanced by the provision of supportive services for volunteer attorneys - such as court reporters or nurses - or by the provision of additional services for clients - such as social workers or counselors.
Clients' matters often require more than legal expertise to reach a resolution. Volunteers from a variety of professions can be of great assistance. Some professions that offer assistance necessary in serving clients are:
- court reporters
- medical profession
- handwriting experts
Ways in which to involve court reporters, medical and mental health professionals, and paralegals will be explored in more detail below as examples of how a pro bono program can engage professionals.
The availability of a volunteer court reporter enhances an attorney's ability to represent a pro bono client in complex cases requiring depositions or other recorded testimony. In recognition of the important role court reporters can play in providing legal services to the indigent, the National Court Reporters Association provides in its code of ethics that "members are encouraged to provide pro bono services. through qualified legal assistance organizations providing free legal services to the indigent."
Often, working with the state's court reporter association will lead to pro bono participation by court reporters. For example:
- the Texas Court Reporter Association has a set of pro bono guidelines for court reporters and attorneys
- the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters publicizes its pro bono program on its website.
- the Iowa Court Reporter Association asks on its has a pro bono committee, which matches volunteers with projects. whether the applicant is willing to participate in pro bono
- the Oregon Court Reporters Association Pro Bono Program provides court reporters for depositions when an attorney is working on a pro bono case.
Medical and Mental Health Professionals
Medical professionals can be helpful both in the context of a client's case and also in providing services which are not required by a court case, but which will assist the client in moving beyond her current challenges. The assistance of a medical professional in analyzing medical records for a disability case can be invaluable. The provision of substance abuse counseling to a client facing housing problems can also be of great benefit.
For example, organizations can use pro bono nurse consultants to analyze and research disability and general medical issues as they relate to unemployment, SSI, ADA, or prescription drug cases, or other medical-related matters.
The Justice and Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco involves volunteer mental health professionals both in the context of client cases and in addressing the clients' issues in a holistic manner. JDCoffers volunteer opportunities for social services providers, therapists, and substance abuse counselors.
Paralegal volunteers can expand a program's capacity by complementing services offered by volunteer attorneys. Paralegals can assist with the client interview process, research, administrative hearings, and other aspects of client service. For more information about involving paralegals in pro bono, please visit the Center for Pro Bono's web page on paralegals.
For More Information
The ABA Center for Pro Bono's Knowledge Center contains additional materials concerning ways to facilitate pro bono participation by professionals, including brochures and articles. For more information, please email the Center for Pro Bono.