Pro Bono and Community Outreach Committee

The Committee works on a number of interesting projects designed to educate Section members about pro bono work, recognize the extraordinary efforts of Section members who perform pro bono work through the Section's Frances Perkins Public Service Award, and support the efforts of the Section and its members to perform pro bono work and community outreach.

Pro Bono Projects

1. Volunteer for Free Legal Answers

ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org is a virtual legal advice portal for users to pose legal questions online to volunteer attorneys: 1) users must meet income eligibility guidelines, 2) questions must be regarding civil legal matters, and 3) answers will be provided by volunteer attorneys in the users’ respective states.

The ABA operates Free Legal Answers and many questions can be answered in 20 minutes. The program has answered over 100,000 questions.

For further information, see the PDF below for states with a Free Legal Answers program and information on how you can join.

2. Many Online Advice Programs at the State and Local Level Need Help

  • Minnesota
    •  In this period of social distancing, virtual legal advice clinics enable attorneys to continue providing pro bono assistance on civil legal matters to those who cannot afford it. These opportunities are available through state and county bar associations, and both national and local legal services organizations across the country. One example is Minnesota Legal Advice Online, which functions like a walk-in legal clinic, allowing low-income individuals to ask questions that are screened and then provided to volunteer lawyers to answer, with no expectation of long-term representation. Volunteers can review the list of open questions and select a topic in an area of their expertise. There are no minimum hours required, and because the site is always available, lawyers can respond to questions whenever and wherever it is convenient. A broad range of questions are typically available, but common areas of inquiry include employment law, housing law, and family law. Click here for more information and details on how to become a volunteer.
  • State Bar of California Disaster Legal Services (including COVID 19 related disasters) 
    • The State Bar of California is working with local bar associations, legal services providers, law schools, and pro bono partners to coordinate the legal response for survivors of California disasters. Volunteers will likely be needed to help staff a legal hotline and resource table at Local Assistance Centers (LAC) or Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) in the near future. Volunteers also will be needed to handle pro bono cases to assist disaster survivors in the next 1-6 months. Online trainings and technical assistance are available. Malpractice insurance will also be provided by the local legal services provider for all pro bono work through the programs. Please complete and submit the sign-up form. You will receive follow up information by email. If you have any questions, please contact Greg Shin at greg.shin@calbar.ca.gov at the State Bar of California's Office of Access & Inclusion. A range of pro bono activities is available. To sign up for volunteer opportunities, use the following California Disaster Legal Services Volunteer Attorney Intake Form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SSX7GSY
  • New Orleans Pro Bono Project 
    • The Pro Bono Project in New Orleans is looking for attorneys to volunteer to help with needs created by the COVID-19 crisis.
  •  New York 
    • People impacted by the economic fallout from CIVID-19 can obtain pro bono help from lawyers through the New York State Bar Association, working in partnership with the New York State Court system. In April, Governor Cuomo announced the Unemployment Insurance ProBono Assistance Network, a program designed to connect attorneys with those seeking benefits or having trouble understanding the application process. Volunteers can sign up at https://nysba.org/covidvolunteer.
  • Texas 
  • Washington, D.C. – Pro bono opportunities exist to help small businesses and nonprofits struggling with COVID-19 legal concerns is also available. A good listing of resources may be found here.

3. Pro Bono Help for Human Trafficking Victims

At its 2020 Midyear Meeting, the ABA passed Resolution 113 encouraging legal professionals “to use and promote technology-based platforms to provide pro bono legal services to victims of human trafficking using technology-based platforms that facilitate efficient, timely and targeted matching of survivors” with complex legal problems to “lawyers who have the requisite specialization and availability to meet those needs pro bono.” One such innovative program is offered in Colorado. It is called ALIGHT (Alliance to Lead Impact in Global Human Trafficking). This technology-based model matches pro bono lawyers to trafficking survivors. https://www.alightnet.org

4. Freedom Now

This Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is dedicated to eliminating government repression in countries struggling to establish strong democratic foundations. In partnership with international and locally-based actors, the organization works systematically on vital human rights issues and provide direct legal advocacy support to victims of human rights abuses.

A significant portion of their work involves providing legal representation to individuals arbitrarily detained as punishment for exercising their fundamental rights. Working with volunteer lawyers, the group prepare and submit cases to international human rights complaint bodies, such as UN mechanisms and regional courts, like the European Court of Human Rights. Working on a Freedom Now case, volunteers are offered an opportunity to develop and vet cases, draft legal briefs, and even assist with the development and implementation of a targeted advocacy case strategy. There are also opportunities to assist on more discrete research projects, such as investigating questions of international human rights law and its application. The amount of time that is required depends on the commitment that each volunteer is prepared to make, and volunteering on a case may involve a multi-year commitment to the client.

For more information about Freedom-Now's work and to inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.freedom-now.org/

For further information about these projects, contact the groups listed above or contact a member of the  Pro Bono and Community Outreach Committee.

Co-Chairs

Tiffanie Benfer, Employee
Sandro Garofalo, In-House Corporate Counsel
Mark E. Heath, Employer
Manuel Quinto-Pozos, Union & Employee
Brenda Sutton-Wills, Public/Neutral

Vice Chairs

Gregory McGillivary, Union & Employee
Kathleen Roseme, Employer

Frances Perkins Public Service Award

The need for pro bono services in the labor and employment area is acute. Questions relating to labor and employment law account for more than a quarter of the issues raised in many pro bono programs. The American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law wants to acknowledge individuals, firms, corporate and union legal departments, government agencies, and other organizations who help meet this crucial need.

As a result, the Section established the Frances Perkins Public Service Award. The Award recognizes individuals or organizations that demonstrate a significant commitment to providing pro bono legal services primarily in the areas of labor and employment law to persons of limited means or to nonprofit, governmental, civic, community or religious organizations designed primarily to address the needs of individuals with limited means.

Midwinter Meeting Fundraiser Project

Many of the Section’s committees conduct meetings throughout the U.S. and beyond. The Pro Bono Work Committee had developed a protocol outlining ways for the committees to conduct fundraising activities which benefit a charitable organization in the region in which the committee is meeting. During the 2012 Midwinter Meeting season, Section committees raised and donated more than $5000 to local charities.

Model Law Firm Pro Bono Policy

In order to assist members of the Section of Labor and Employment Law in formulating a pro bono policy for their law firms, the Pro Bono Work Committee has developed a model policy. The Committee urges all firms to adopt and implement a pro bono policy.

The model policy is consistent with ABA Model Rule 6.1, however, the views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

The Pro Bono Work Committee reminds Section members that they must also consult their state and local bar association's pro bono rules before instituting a pro bono policy. The web site of the ABA Center for Pro Bono (see in the right panel of this page) provides links to most states' pro bono rules.

The Committee recommends that each firm's pro bono policy be distributed to all attorneys at the time it is adopted and annually thereafter.

Read the complete model pro bono policy statement through the link in the right panel of this page.

Settlement Assistance Program in Northern District of Illinois

The Pro Bono Work Committee of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law sees it as part of our mission to expose our members to some of the excellent pro bono programs that are presently operating across the country. Our reason is twofold. First is to applaud those attorneys who are participating in these programs. Second, is to encourage others to establish similar programs in their own community. Towards that end, we offer the following article about an excellent program in Illinois that was highlighted at the recent Annual Section Conference in Chicago.

Beginning in 2006, pro se litigants' chances of resolving their disputes in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois greatly improved. For, in 2006 the Settlement Assistance Program was established by Chief Judge Holderman. Judge Holderman then sought the assistance of the Employment Opportunity Project at the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (CLC) to administer the program for the court. More>>

Frances Perkins Public Service Award

Labor and Employment Law Web Resources

Model Law Firm Pro Bono Policy

Hurricane Relief Efforts

 

ABA Center for Pro Bono Directory of Pro Bono Programs

Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide

ABA Center for Pro Bono web links

ABA Center for Pro Bono Clearinghouse Library

Co-Chairs:
Tiffanie Benfer, Employee
Sandro Garofalo, In-House Corporate Counsel
Mark E. Heath, Employer
Manuel Quinto-Pozos, Union & Employee
Brenda Sutton-Wills, Public/Neutral