The rewards and need for pro bono work
Not everyone in America can afford to hire an attorney when they are faced with a legal problem. Amongst the poor, the need for legal services is overwhelming. According to an American Bar Association study, at least 40 percent of low and moderate-income households experience a legal problem each year and the collective civil legal aid effort are meeting only about 20 percent of their needs.
The heart of pro bono
The evolution of pro bono work started with attorneys considering it to be nothing more than “charity work” or something attorneys did to feel good about themselves, to the more accepted characterization of pro bono services as a professional responsibility and a powerful force inside the practice of law.
Nowadays, pro bono work is an affirmative obligation of the profession. More state bars around the country are encouraging their attorneys to consider offering their services free of charge to the less fortunate. As a result, lawyers from around the country and up and down the state of California have donated their talents and time to a wide range of legal issues that people face. At the heart of every pro bono situation is an attorney putting their skills and reputation on the line in an effort to help their community. The take away from this experience is that the attorney made a difference in someone’s life that really needed it and the clients’ lives will be reshaped. And sometimes the attorneys’ lives will even be reshaped.
That’s why it is important to do this kind of work. And I think it is important for attorneys to seek out opportunities to help. Our chosen charity for this year, Veterans Legal Institute (VLI), provides these types of opportunities. I will share my firm’s pro bono experience with VLI.
The right thing to do
Many of VLI’s clients were in need of an attorney to assist them with obtaining their social security benefits; however, VLI has had trouble locating someone to help. After meeting with Captain Antoinette Balta and identifying this need, my firm stepped in to help. Senior Attorney Greg Alumit with my firm heads up our social security practice area. He is a seasoned attorney that has attended numerous hearings and has been involved in obtaining the benefits our clients deserve for several years. Greg and his team of paralegals and legal assistants have coordinated a day each month to go to VLI and meet with clients in need of assistance obtaining their social security benefits. They also do an overview of the process so that the clients have a better understanding of the system and how it works. The result…these clients were relieved to finally get the help they had been searching for and Greg and his team were happy to help and to feel the genuine appreciation from the clients there. We are happy to be doing this on a regular basis and this will be a relationship that will go beyond this year.
VLI has several opportunities for pro bono help like this. There is a need for more family law help and help with minor criminal infractions. If you can find it in your heart and you have the time, please consider reaching out to them to offer your services. After all, it’s the good and right thing to do.
Vincent D. Howard is the managing shareholder of Vincent Law, Anaheim. His practice focuses on individual cases and mass torts involving personal injury and consumer protection. His experience in these areas stems from his work at Lopez, Hodes, Restaino, Milman & Skikos, where he handled high-profile mass tort litigation and pharmaceutical injury cases against such companies as Wal-mart, Merck and Halliburton. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno and received his J.D. at Western State College of Law, where he was a Dean's Scholar.
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