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Certain lawyers, however, may be limited by constitutional, statutory, rule, or other regulatory prohibitions and are deferred from participation under the rule. It should be noted that the Standing Committee on Pro Bono is currently considering revisions to the Pro Bono Rule which would remove the “deferred” category thus clearing the way for increased pro bono participation from government lawyers. These lawyers would include judges and their staffs, government attorneys, and members of the bar who are retired, inactive or suspended.

Other attorneys may find that direct case representation of clients is not appropriate for other reasons. For example attorneys may:

• be more interested in or better qualified for other work;
• require volunteer work with a definite, predictable time frame;
• possess expertise limited to areas not in great demand by indigent clients.

In Palm Beach County, a number of innovative and creative methods for providing pro bono service have been developed to answer the needs of these attorneys.

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  • Recently Legal Aid, with the assistance of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, established a panel of attorneys to assist victims of domestic violence by representing them at to extend restraining orders.
  • Training provided by Legal Aid Domestic Violence Project attorneys.
  • Important decisions regarding temporary custody, visitation, and child support can be made at extension hearings. Although representation by the attorney, requires a very limited time commitment, it can make a significant difference in the lives of the victims of domestic violence.
  • In 1999, 7 cases were referred.
  • Café Joshua is a unique organization which provides assistance to the homeless through restoration of dignity and self-esteem. The guests are provided with a variety of services aimed at promoting reintegration to the community. Services include: job programs; medical and dental care; mail service; and alcohol and drug programs. Legal Aid added a legal component.
  • Legal Aid recruited pro bono attorneys to assist by volunteering at the Café. After an orientation lunch for interested attorneys, a referral list was compiled and the Pro Bono Program began matching clients with attorneys.
  • In addition to offering assistance to individual clients, Café Joshua conducts monthly “Life Skills” seminars. Pro Bono lawyers helped in this regard also by providing informational classes on topics such as Driver’s License Reinstatement and Landlord Tenant issues.
  • Legal education to community groups can be effective in preventing legal problems before they occur.
  • State Attorney’s office is one agency which has developed an innovative program. The “Adopt a School” program provides educational seminars and forums in public schools each month. In 1999, 105 attorneys contributed over 2,000 hours at Palm Beach County schools. Topics include: vandalism, alcohol, the dangers of guns and the consequences of crime.
  • Over 100 volunteer attorneys assist HIV-infected individuals with a wide range of legal problems.
  • In 1999, 73 cases were opened and 334 hours spent AIDs cases.
  • Held in Central and South Palm Beach County
  • Take place on Saturday mornings in low-income areas in order to better access the community.
  • Florida Statutes, Chapters 396 and 397, are used to effect commitments to drug programs. Civil contempt procedures are utilized to help community residents fight drug problems.
  • Unique method for judges to provide pro bono service.
  • Commenting on Rule 4-6.1, the Supreme Court of Florida states, “Pro bono legal service to the poor need not be provided only through legal services to individuals: it can also be provided through legal services to charitable, religious, or educational organizations whose overall mission and activities are designed predominantly to address the needs of the poor.”
  • Through the Legal Aid Society’s Non-Profit Organization Project, attorneys provide assistance with the initial incorporation of a non-profit organization and will assist organizations in obtaining tax exempt status.
  • Presently, over 100 attorneys have volunteered to handle cases for emerging organizations whose primary purpose is to meet the needs of the disadvantaged, disabled, elderly or children of Palm Beach County. In 1999, 25 cases were closed with a total of 290 hours donated by pro bono attorneys. Additionally, 35 cases are presently active.
  • Introduced in 1997, this program offers pro bono opportunities for transactional, corporate and real estate attorneys.
  • Partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nations largest support organization for grassroots community building. LISC mobilizes partnerships to help people rebuild deteriorated neighborhoods and rural areas across America. LISC provides funding and technical know-how to Community Development Corporations (CDC) to create affordable housing for working families, spur commercial investment, create jobs, and expand opportunity in low-income neighborhoods.
  • The Sadowski Legal Fellowships Program is a LISC pilot initiative which facilitates the pro bono involvement of attorneys in community- building by partnering law firms with CDCs. Working with CDCs, this program enables attorneys to give legal assistance in the creation of affordable housing and economic development projects.
  • Currently, 4 CDCs have been matched with attorneys. Some of the likely legal issues are:
    • review of construction loan agreements
    • review of loan documents
    • review of existing insurance policies
    • environmental issues
    • incorporation of non-profit and obtaining
    • 501(c)(3) status
  • Attorneys often find this option attractive because it offers a definite time period for their volunteer work, unlike open ended case referrals.
  • Priority for this program is given to government lawyers and in-house corporate counsel. Volunteer attorneys spend a morning or afternoon at Legal Aid’s office interview prospective clients and prepare cases for referral to Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Project.
  • The Fourth District Court of Appeals and the Legal Aid Society operate a program which enables the Judges’ clerks to fulfill their pro bono obligation by providing intake services at Legal Aid’s offices. Intake takes place bi weekly between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. This provides working clients an opportunity to complete applications during non work hours.
    • Legal Aid staff is on hand in the event that the clerks encounter difficult situations.
    • The clerks have donated approximately 120 hours. Other government attorneys such as staff attorneys for the Attorney General’s office and attorneys employed by the Florida Bar, have similarly participated.
  • Criminal defense attorneys are able to fulfill their pro bono obligation by representing indigent defendants in misdemeanor cases whenever the public defender is granted leave to withdraw because of a conflict of interest or other valid ground.
  • Currently, approximately 25 attorneys have been court appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants on a pro bono basis.
  • Attorneys collect a flat fee of $400.00 and contribute that amount to the Legal Aid Society. Currently, there are 11 active cases.
  • The Cultural Affairs Committee of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, along with the Palm Beach County Cultural Council have worked in close cooperation with the Legal Aid Society in promoting this program.
  • Currently 66 attorneys have agreed to handle cases for artists who are income-eligible and arts organizations whose primary purpose includes outreach to the economically disadvantaged in Palm Beach County. In 1999, 20 cases were referred with approximately 150 hours logged.
  • Past activities have included a public seminar (promoted with Law Week) focusing on legal issues facing artists. Local attorneys addressed topics such as copyright and non-profit incorporation.
  • This year, in cooperation with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee of the Palm Beach County Bar, Legal Aid launched a new program which provides pro bono credit for small claims mediators. The cases must involve at least one party who is indigent or “working poor.” At the time of the mediation, the attorney can make a determination on the financial status of the parties and, if appropriate, apply for pro bono credit.
  • Attorneys certified as family law mediators handle family law mediations for Legal Aid and pro bono attorneys. In 1999, the Legal Aid Society was able to access 4 attorneys who provided mediation services in divorce and family law modification matters.
  • Program designed to reduce the juvenile criminal caseload in Palm Beach County by allowing first-time offenders to participate in a diversionary program.
  • Cases are heard by County and Circuit Court judges and a sentence is handed down by a jury of the defendant’s peers.
  • The Young Lawyers Section of Palm Beach County oversees the program by assisting the student prosecutors and student defenders in the handling and presentation of their cases, as well as evaluating them after the jury verdict.
  • Each lawyer spends a minimum of four (4) sessions per school calendar year, consisting of a minimum of four (4) hours per session.
  • Several Judges have participated in this program.

The foregoing examples represent a few alternatives to attorneys who find themselves constrained from direct client representation for various reasons. There are certainly others. Some other areas suggested by the Supreme Court ((see Rule 4-6.5 (d)) are:

• acting as co-counsel on cases or matters with legal assistance providers and other pro bono lawyers;
• providing consultation services to legal assistance providers for case reviews and evaluations;
• participation in policy advocacy;
• providing training to the staff of legal assistance providers and other volunteer pro bono attorneys;
• making presentations to groups of poor persons regarding their rights and obligations under the law;
• providing legal research; and
• providing guardian ad litem services.

Lawyers and the organizations they work for are, to a large extent, limited only by their imaginations in creating and initiating innovative ways to provide pro service.

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