Bar News - September 21, 2016
Highlighting Attorney Volunteerism for Pro Bono Month
By: Ginny Martin
New opportunities are available to broaden your legal skills and practice base at low-cost training programs while celebrating the Pro Bono spirit and helping clients in need during Pro Bono Month in October.
This year the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program celebrates the contributions of Catherine Shanelaris of Shanelaris & Schirch in Nashua with the Bruce E. Friedman Award given annually to a graduate of the UNH School of Law (formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center) who has made significant and exemplary contributions in volunteer legal services for the disadvantaged. The award will be presented at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25, at a reception at the law school co-sponsored by the Pro Bono Program and UNH School of Law.
Also on tap – referral marathons and clinics and a couple of exciting live trainings designed to make attorneys case- and client-ready in key areas of the law: domestic violence and consumer debt collection.
DOVE (Domestic Violence Emergency) Project: Slated for Oct. 19, this seminar prepares attorneys to represent victims of domestic violence at final restraining order hearings. In the average eight-to-10-hour time commitment for these cases, attorneys can make all the difference for those living in fear for their safety and sometimes their lives. An interactive training, the seminar features a mock trial presided over by an actual judge, along with an overview of RSA 173-B, practice tips from experienced attorneys and extensive materials. DOVE also provides attorneys with:
- Ongoing support
- Case shadowing
- Malpractice coverage for Project cases
- Trial/courtroom experience (in a discrete area of the law), and
- The chance to make a difference not only for victims, but also their children
One DOVE attorney, James Shephard, summed up DOVE this way: “DOVE is particularly well suited for those who may be hesitant about going to court or learning a new area. It is a small universe of law where you can get out of the office to go to court for one hearing to help someone, who is grateful for the assistance.”
Consumer Debt Collection: Rescheduled from an October date to Wednesday, Nov. 16, this Pro Bono training is not to be missed. Pro Bono is bringing together a faculty from private practice, UNH Law, legal services and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to share their knowledge and expertise in this area of law ripe for greater attorney involvement on behalf of low-income consumers. Most debtors normally proceed pro se or simply default, even though they may have valid defenses – the statute of limitations has run or perhaps the amount of the debt is wrong.
From the applicable state and federal laws to key strategies to protect the rights of consumers, the seminar promises to cover what attorneys must know to advocate for consumers in venues including Small Claims Court and Superior Court. The agenda extends to the critical topic of attorney’s fees. Summing it up, the training offers attorneys the opportunity to learn how to do some good for those in need, while building or enhancing one’s private practice.
Concord attorney Roger Phillips, a member of the seminar faculty, came to consumer law later in his legal career and urges other attorneys to get involved to help level the playing field for low-income people when it comes to defending against suits by debt buyers and debt collectors who have legal representation.
“About 10 years ago I represented a client wrongly sued for a credit card debt he didn’t owe,” Phillips said. “By the time he came to me, there was an arbitration decision against him, despite the evidence showing he was a victim of identity theft. It’s really about justice and fairness and sometimes, because of fee-shifting statutes, there is the side benefit of getting attorney’s fees awarded.”
Attorneys at all stages of their careers are invited to join Cathy, Jim and Roger and the hundreds of other attorneys who participate in the Pro Bono Program. Attending one of the trainings described above is a great way to get involved.