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October 29, 2021

ABA leadership takes part in Pro Bono Week

“Helping those in need is a privilege that we all share,” said ABA President Reginald Turner at a pro bono event on Oct. 27. “As legal professionals, it is our duty to help ensure that all people have the right to equal justice under law.”

He and other ABA leaders did their part to mark the Celebration of Pro Bono, Oct. 24-30.

Turner attended three events, the first of which was a virtual book club with Brittany K. Barnett, author of “A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom,” and ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service chair David Bienvenu.

Addressing the author, Turner said, “Your work in seeking clemency petitions for individuals who were sentenced with drug crimes as a result of the war on drugs, specifically the many people of color who were disproportionately sentenced, is nothing short of inspiring. And … you beginning this journey as a law student reminds us that we can be change agents at any age – no matter how young or old.”

The president also virtually attended an Access to Justice Thank You & Celebration hosted by the Michigan State Bar Foundation and a Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Pro Bono ceremony to honor attorneys for their extraordinary pro bono efforts.

President-elect Deborah Enix-Ross, a senior adviser to the International Dispute Resolution Group of Debevoise & Plimpton, took part in the Oct. 26 New York State Business Council for Access to Justice’s virtual Emergency Rental Assistance Application Clinic.

The event came about after Stephen Gauster, general counsel of MetLife and a member of the New York State Business Council for Access to Justice, heard Attorney General Merrick Garland’s call-to-action for pro bono lawyers to assist tenants facing eviction. MetLife invited Debevoise & Plimpton and Legal Services NYC to join them.

“It was an honor to partner with MetLife and Legal Services NYC to provide much needed assistance to clients to apply for the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program,” Enix-Ross said. “We helped to address the eviction crisis and provide stability to both landlords and tenants.”

And in his spare time, ABA Executive Director Jack Rives has been fulfilling his pro bono commitment by answering questions through ABA Free Legal Answers.

“I have been impressed with FLA since I first learned about it,” he said. “The site is very well constructed. It is convenient for qualifying users with civil legal problems and also for attorneys who provide pro bono support.”

Rives, who has been answering FLA questions for several years, answers a variety of civil law questions, mostly having to do with tenant and debtor issues.

Asked what he would advise an ABA member thinking about trying FLA, Rives said, “Do it! I recommend they sign up and try it at least once… and then come back to the site as often as possible. They’ll be using their legal skills to help those in need of such services. It can be very gratifying to engage with FLA.”

ABA Model Rule 6.1 establishes the professional responsibility of lawyers to provide 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services a year. In addition to Free Legal Answers, attorneys can volunteer at any time through the ABA Disaster Relief Pro Bono Portal, the Afghanistan Response Project, Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation and the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, among others.