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Pro Bono Proud: Celebrate National Pro Bono Week

By Hon. Barbara Crowder

Do you pro bono? If so, show you are “Pro Bono Proud” during National Pro Bono Week by attending a celebratory event. If not, why not? More opportunities abound to find a pro bono project that meets your time and abilities than ever before. And even more ways to pro bono may be coming to a circuit near you.

National Pro Bono Week is October 23 through 29, 2011. The ISBA through the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services joins with the ABA to ask all bar associations and lawyers to participate both by performing pro bono work and by joining in the celebrations. Help showcase the efforts of the great lawyers who volunteer and the range of services available for those who need them.

How? Pass a resolution in your local bar group to join those being passed throughout the nation lauding the efforts of pro bono attorneys. Then publicize it! A sample resolution is available for use as a draft. Write letters to the editors of local newspapers to discuss the programs available and to promote the good works of the volunteers. A sample letter to the editor is also available to use as a draft to put information about local pro bono efforts before the public. Finally, host a reception thanking the lawyers who do pro bono work and urging the others to sign up for some of the new programs that are being introduced.

Some areas are hosting breakfasts, lunches, or dinners with the judiciary so that the courts can thank those who help in pro bono projects such as foreclosure mediations, family court mediations or who serve as guardians ad litem without compensation. Chicago usually has a breakfast with the judges among its many events. Vermillion, Douglas and Madison County are planning meals with their judges at which all of the lawyers who have performed pro bono service during the last year will be honored.

Another way to celebrate is to find new ways to help those who would like to be involved in pro bono assistance. Madison County is rolling out a new project to expand the assistance available at the courthouse by having volunteers from the Madison County Bar Association handle appointments referred through Land of Lincoln. Volunteers are asked to sign up for one hour time slots to staff the appointments. Thus, each volunteer knows exactly how much time he or she is donating. The appointments will help people understand their rights and options before proceeding pro se or may match people with a program that can assist them. The first day of appointments will be during National Pro Bono Week to better spotlight this new program.

Those with smart phones who want even more pro bono information can avail themselves of a new Illinois Pro Bono Mobile App that will be ready for downloading beginning October 24th (during National Pro Bono Week). The App will be available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices and is designed for Illinois attorneys or legal professionals to access statewide Pro Bono resources and view upcoming MCLE training or other events on the Illinois Pro Bono calendar. It is based off the Illinois Pro Bono website www.illinoisprobono.org and also has articles on specific areas of law to help pro bono attorneys provide service.

More event ideas can be found at www.celebrateprobono.org. However your community and bar association decides to show you are Pro Bono Proud, please share your efforts and event details with the ISBA. We are proud of you!