July 16, 2021
By: Richard Guerierro
“Lawyers have a license to practice law, a monopoly on certain services. But for that privilege and status, lawyers have an obligation to provide legal services to those without the wherewithal to pay, to respond to needs outside themselves, to help repair tears in their communities.” – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (March 2014).
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1955).
Most people experience the legal system alone – without a lawyer. That means they are less likely to find peace by resolving a conflict and less likely to receive some version of justice at the end of their case. You can do something about that. You can take a pro bono case through 603 Legal Aid.
Why should you do a pro bono case through 603 Legal Aid? To be sure, we are not going to solve the access to justice crisis through the pro bono work of lawyers. And, let’s be frank, you are not going to make any money. You will lose money because you are going to give up time when you could be handling a paying case. That’s the reality, but don’t let it stop you.
You should do a pro bono case because you will be doing good. Whatever other moral issues we might dispute, it is a good thing to help a person in need. You have qualifications most people do not have. People need your help. They need your knowledge and skills. You can help another person simply by being lawyer and doing what you to do. That’s a good thing.
You will also be doing good in other, more specific ways. Depending on your case and how it goes, you might:
- Prevent a person from being homeless;
- Preserve the relationship between a parent and child by protecting their rights;
- Help a person with a criminal record get a fresh start by annulling their conviction;
- Help a person overcome financial problems by protecting them against unfair debt collection practices; or,
- Help a person plan for the future through basic estate planning, a simple will, or a power of attorney.
Also, although you won’t make any money, when you do a pro bono case through 603 Legal Aid they do a lot to ease the burden and provide support, including:
- Free or low-cost trainings for those agreeing to take a pro bono case.
- Professional liability insurance for eligible cases.
- Automatic waiver of filing and in-state service fees under RSA 499:18(b).
- Reimbursement of up to $30 for out-of-pocket expenses. (In certain situations, the Executive Director can waive this limit with pre-approval.)
- Free transcription services for depositions in connection with a case referred through the Pro Bono Program.
- Interpreters for out-of-court communications.
- Options for various kinds for pro bono work, tailored to your practice and availability, ranging from taking a case for full representation, to providing limited unbundled services, to participating in a clinic.
- Options for retired or inactive attorneys to take a case on Limited Active Membership Status.
So how do you volunteer? It’s easy: Keep watching for more news about 603 Legal Aid and its new Executive Director, Sonya Bellafant. Then, when you are ready, contact Sue Alexander at 603-224-3333, ext. 203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You will know you did a good thing and you won’t regret it.