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November 08, 2021

LA and DC lawyers step up for Pro Bono Week

Pro Bono Week 2021 was a bicoastal hit, judging by results from California’s largest public law library and Washington, D.C.’s public interest bar association.

The LA Law Library, which helps self-represented litigants and legal professionals in Los Angeles, sponsored 80 classes, workshops and direct-help programs during Pro Bono Week. Programs were in person and online.

More than 1,800 people participated in  programs. Among the offerings was an entire Saturday of Ask-A-Lawyer programs in five areas: Chapter 7 bankruptcy; child custody, support and visitation; immigration and citizenship; small claims court; and civil rights.

A separate Ask-A-Lawyer session on property transfers after death also was held during the week. Crystal Hayes Hill, a Los Angeles probate attorney, spent an hour answering 19 questions online, some with very detailed scenarios involving parents, siblings and loved ones.

Several participants asked about family trusts. Others asked about joint tenancy, substitute trusts, community property, conservatorship and transfer-on-death deeds. Another asked about California’s Proposition 19, which is the Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Family and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act approved by voters in 2020. “We’re still trying to make sense of it,” Hill replied. Throughout the event, she repeated her mantra: “If you own property, you need to get a trust.”

Executive Director Sandra Levin was thrilled at the high level of participation from the public and the bar. “It was absolutely stunning to see the power and efficacy of lawyers, librarians and paraprofessionals all working together to provide services to vulnerable individuals struggling to vindicate their rights and access justice,” Levin said. 

Across the country in the nation’s capital, the Washington Council of Lawyers sponsored eight programs and five clinics during Pro Bono Week.

More than 700 people attended programs such as “Pro Bono in the Virtual Age,” “Coding Justice,” “The Coming Eviction Crisis” and “Advancing Environmental Justice.” A virtual tour of the area east of the Anacostia River, “Meeting Our Clients Where They Are,” attracted 82 lawyers and legal professionals.

More than 150 lawyers, law students, paralegals and law clerks assisted 130 people at clinics on immigration, taxes, expungement, small business and veterans.

Christina Jackson, executive director of the Washington Council of Lawyers, said: “DC Pro Bono Week is a yearly opportunity to highlight the intense need for civil legal services in the District of Columbia, celebrate the dedicated pro bono advocates who make a positive and often life-changing impact on their clients every day, and inspire lawyers of all experience levels and expertise to step up to fill the access-to-justice gap.”