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October 20, 2022

Cleveland lawyers step up for ABA Celebration of Pro Bono

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which matches Ohioans in need with pro bono legal professionals, will sponsor 30 events this month, including seven during The National Celebration of Pro Bono, Oct. 23-29.

Founded in 1905, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is the fifth oldest legal aid organization in the United States. It operates four offices, serving residents of Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties, and has participated in the ABA’s pro bono celebration since its inception in 2009.

“We have lots of volunteers and we appreciate having the month of October to celebrate their work,” said Melanie A. Shakarian, director of development and communications for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “Celebrate Pro Bono Week helps us recruit new volunteers.”

This year, the group’s offerings include a Brief Advice Clinic scheduled for all day on Oct. 25 at El Centro in Lorain. At the clinic, lawyers will answer questions about housing, family matters, consumer rights, health, education, work, income or immigration. Another Brief Advice Clinic will be held from 2-3 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Cleveland Public Library.

A virtual event called Lunch with Legal Aid at 12:30-1 p.m. on Oct. 27 will be held in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, where speakers will share “know your rights” information.

At a Sealing Ohio Criminal Records Clinic, 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the Elyria Public Library, lawyers will discuss Ohio’s record-sealing law and offer help with expungement applications.

Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes are also offered, including a virtual Ohio Eviction Law Basics CLE from noon-2 p.m. on Oct. 25. It will cover statutes and resources relevant to eviction law, as well as helpful information about the courts and commonly used pleadings in eviction cases.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s 75 full-time attorneys, 50 other staff members and more than 3,000 volunteer lawyers work year-round to help Ohioans with civil legal needs. In 2020, the group handled more than 6,000 cases, the bulk of which involved clients facing immediate threats to shelter, safety and economic security.

Throughout her nearly 20 years with the organization, Shakarian said she has seen an increased interest in pro bono work. “It’s something private lawyers have incorporated into their practice,” she said, adding that 20% of their cases are handled by volunteers.

In 2020, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland held 88 neighborhood clinics, 14 outreach events such as resource fairs, 45 educational presentations to community groups and 117 educational presentations for social service providers.