Bar News - August 23, 2013
President’s Perspective: Pro Bono: A Professional Duty and Moral Responsibility
By: Jaye Rancourt
I strongly believe that it is part of our responsibility as lawyers to give back and to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Pro Bono Month Coming Soon
The NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program is nationally recognized for excellence in creating ways for a wide variety of attorneys to provide civil legal services for the poor and vulnerable.
Starting last year, the NHBA began celebrating “Pro Bono Month” in October, building on the national observance of Pro Bono Week. There was just too much going on in Pro Bono to confine it to just one week.
This observance enables Pro Bono to celebrate the hard work of many volunteers, and to highlight the services available to those who take cases through Pro Bono, including mentoring, access to pro bono experts, malpractice insurance for pro bono cases, training, and assistance with client communications.
Also in October, the popular Divorce Camp program is scheduled to take place again. Spread over three evenings, this program provides intensive hands-on training and mentoring as attorneys gain experience with an actual Pro Bono case.
Also, in partnership with the UNH School of Law, Pro Bono will be presenting the second annual Bruce E. Friedman Award for Pro Bono service to a UNH Law/Pierce Law Center alum.
Stay tuned for an informative, inspiring celebration of Pro Bono Month in New Hampshire!
I have heard lawyers ask, “Why should we be any more responsible for helping the poor than any other profession?” My answer: The honor of being a lawyer brings the responsibility to work toward real and permanent change in this country. As lawyers, we have the knowledge and skills to assist disadvantaged citizens who are facing eviction or the loss of their children within a complex legal system that they simply cannot navigate alone. I implore each one of our members to do their part to lend a helping hand to those in need.
Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, said, “Service is the rent we pay for living. It is not something to do in your spare time; it is the very purpose of life.”
While that is a great ideal, the practicalities of life and our other responsibilities cause us to be realists as we try to serve others. Many members shy away from Pro Bono service because they associate the Pro Bono program with taking a difficult family law case from soup to nuts.
While that is a very real need, we recognize that it is not within everyone’s wheelhouse and that it is simply not practical for all of our members to commit that amount of time.
Through the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program, you can assist people facing eviction, foreclosure, and bankruptcy. You can help by joining the panels of attorneys already involved with the Low-Income Taxpayer Project, the NH Foreclosure Relief Project, or our DOVE Project, which serves victims of domestic violence. We also need lawyers who can provide service in elder law and appellate practice.
If you simply cannot take on a Pro Bono case, there are other ways you can help. Volunteer to answer legal questions for LawLine, join the faculty for a Pro Bono CLE, or mentor new attorneys taking Pro Bono cases. Heck, many attorneys help Pro Bono and the poor residents of our state simply by playing in the annual Quid Pro Bono Golf Tournament. You can also make financial contributions by opening an IOLTA account at one of the state’s nine leadership banks or contributing to the Campaign for Legal Services.
Justice Lewis Powell Jr. once said, “Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the façade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists... It is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”
We can make real and permanent change in the lives of disadvantaged people in the state of New Hampshire and help to ensure that justice is accessible for everyone. I suggest we start now.
Jaye Rancourt is the 2013-14 president of the NH Bar Association and practices with the law firm of Brennan Caron Lenehan & Iacopino in Manchester.