ABC’s of Pro Bono in Dauphin County

 

The last several months have been busy for the Dauphin County Bar Association Pro Bono Program. DCBA hired its first public services coordinator, Sandy Ballard (former executive director of the Philadelphia Bar Association Homeless Advocacy Project). 

 

Sandy began work in late January. In addition to running the pro bono program, Sandy’s responsibilities include the Lawyer Referral Service and the new Alternative Dispute Resolution Program. According to Sandy, “It’s all about increasing access to justice.”

 

April Annual Awards reception was held to thank pro bono participants.

 

Bankruptcy Rooster Project was launched in May to recruit Middle District bankruptcy attorneys who are willing to assist pro se petitioners when contacted by Judge France.

 

Custody clinics staffed mostly by state government attorneys and law students are held once a month to assist pro se plaintiffs. Custody Modification Clinics are held six times a year.

 

Divorce clinics are held on an as needed basis.

 

Expedited docket is offered to pro bono attorneys to minimize their time commitment.

 

Free food at regular gatherings (April and September CLEs and June and November Rap Sessions) is provided as a way to thank pro bono participants.

 

Great cooperation and support from bench, bar, legal services and PBA staff member David Trevaskis.

 

Honor Roll of Pro Bono Participants for prior year was displayed at the DCBA office, listed on the PBA and DCBA web sites and included in the DCBA newsletter.  Monthly Honor Roll is listed in each DCBA newsletter.

 

Interns provide much-needed help to the pro bono program.

 

Judicial support was emphasized in a letter from the president judge signed by all members of the bench and mailed to all 1,400 members of the DCBA.

 

Kisses (donated by Hershey’s) in Legal Services mug is used as small tokens of appreciation.

 

Lost Boys of Sudan Legal Liaison Project was launched to assist 40 refugees as they attempt to start a new life in Harrisburg.

 

Manual for Pro Bono Participants, modeled after one from Illinois, was created by pro bono intern.

 

Number of people assisted since from January to August is 211.

 

Office of General Council attorneys are very involved and encouraged by the general counsel. There is an official policy encouraging pro bono service.

 

Paralegal Screening Project launched in September to use volunteer paralegal to assist legal services staff in obtaining background information and screening cases.

 

Questionnaires were sent to 1,400 DCBA members to obtain feedback on pro bono program.  Surveys also are used at clinics and sent to clients when the matter is closed.

 

Rap Session was held in June to bring together pro bono attorneys and legal services staff to discuss issues, ideas and ways to improve.

 

Success Stories are included in each quarterly newsletter to highlight the types of matters pro bono attorneys handle.

 

Turns are taken alphabetically for pro bono appointments.

 

Unique method is used to ensure that each DCBA member is given the opportunity to do pro bono work.

 

Value of pro bono attorneys’ participation for January to August is estimated as $176,400.

 

Wide discussion of ways to attack the Family Law Deficit (outlined in excellent December 2002 ABA report) was held at Family Law Section meeting in March 2003.

 

X-tra help is offered by the “Dirty Dozen” expert family law practitioners who are willing to jump in on an emergency basis.

 

Your Pro Bono Questions is a regular feature in DBA monthly newsletter.

 

Zillions of good ideas are shared and discussed with other pro bono coordinators across the country.




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