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Bar News - April 16, 2010


Pro Bono Program on the Move

By:

Pro Bono has moved from March madness to "spring into action" mode. March brought a lot of activity, which continues through mud season and beyond, from peer-to-peer referral sessions to comprehensive training and improved volunteer support services.

Marathons: Not Just for Runners

No running shoes are required to participate in a Pro Bono Referral marathon. The 2010 season began in late February when members of the Catholic Lawyers Guild placed more than 20 cases of needy low-income clients with volunteer lawyers. Public sector attorneys seized the baton the following month and succeeded in enlisting 22 attorneys to take on the legal matters of as many clients. On April 12, newer practitioners will dial for volunteers to enlist their peers in getting involved in Pro Bono by accepting cases ranging from bankruptcy and foreclosure to divorce, parenting and elder law.

Improved "Indigency" Forms

Problems in obtaining waiver of court filing and sheriff’s fees in Pro Bono qualified cases should be a thing of the past. The Pro Bono Program now has one form for use in all of the trial courts; it is being sent out to attorneys with all appropriate referrals. Attorneys with questions or problems with current cases should contact Pro Bono Director Ginny Martin.

N. Country DOVE Outreach

Confronting harsh economic times, rising unemployment, and shrinking local resources, the need for free legal services for victims of domestic violence is skyrocketing. Legal services programs are challenged to meet these needs in the best of times, but increased demand and loss of funding necessitates new approaches to serve victims.

With stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the DOVE Project developed an initiative to deliver unbundled legal assistance to "north country" victims of domestic violence regarding potential or on-going restraining order cases. Harnessing the volunteer legal resources of the southern counties, DOVE is able to provide legal advice to victims living in the underserved northern counties. A key component to this delivery model is the partnership with advocates of local crisis center agencies, who identify clients and provide technical assistance to volunteer lawyers and emotional support to clients. A winning combination!

Since approval of the grant in August 2009, NHBA Legal Services Director Ginny Martin and Pam Dodge, DOVE coordinator, have met with area service providers to network and provide outreach in the northern counties. The pilot program went live in February 2010, serving a dozen clients in two months. With continued coordination, interest and sustained funding, DOVE anticipates that this program will offer domestic violence victims/survivors in the rural northern counties with much needed legal assistance.

The following comment came from the director of one of DOVE’s partner crisis center agencies:

"What a day yesterday was! Scott is absolutely wonderful. We were all impressed with him. I’ve never seen our advocates and clients with such a hopeful attitude. Thanks so much for all you’ve done to bring this project to fruition."

Pro Bono/DOVE Training

The Dove Project held an advanced domestic violence training CLE for family law practitioners on March 16. This program, "Crossfire: How Domestic Abuse Affects Family Law Practice," had almost 40 participants, including attorneys, paralegals, mediators and guardians ad litem. The faculty featured Marital Master Deborah Rein, Kathleen McDonald-deputy clerk of Manchester Family Division, and among others on the faculty were a psychologist and some experienced practitioners. Topics included: the particular challenges facing victims in domestic relations cases; perfecting service; ex parte motions; first appearance; working with guardians ad litem and mediators; batterers’ treatment; and supervised visitation programs. If you missed this important seminar, contact DOVE Coordinator Pam Dodge for further information.

Virginia Martin is the director of the Legal Services Department of the NH Bar Association.

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