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ISBA committee work provides inspiration to do more

Karen MunozBy Karen Munoz, ISBA Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services

I am wrapping up my first year as a member for the Delivery of Legal services committee. Over the last year I have been exposed to some incredible lawyers and organizations throughout the state that do what they can each day to level the playing field of justice.

I have barely begun to scratch the surface of how important these organizations are in our society. I have been an attorney in the private sector for my entire career. Despite volunteering for different bar associations, this is really my first exposure to the provision of legal services to the indigent and it truly has been eye-opening.

Even though the work that I do is in many ways relatable (the client pays nothing up front in most cases, thus allowing access to a lawyer not ordinarily found in most areas of law), it does not compare to the needs I have witnessed over the last 12 months. I also have recognized that as our haves and have nots have drifted further and further apart, the need has only deepened.

Without many of these organizations operating at low to no cost in our state, many people would be left with absolutely no legal recourse. Obtaining these services can sometimes be the difference between becoming homeless, bankrupt, or worse in continuing physical danger.

Due to my exposure through the Committee, I was inspired to do more, and I recently joined the Board of the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic. I am very green in this world, but I have learned how real the threat to victims of domestic violence can be without having an advocate on their side. I think the legal community can do much more than we think that we can. I used to believe that there were just too many pro bono opportunities out there and what if I picked the wrong one? Or what if I had no clue as to the area of law? Maybe it was safer to stick to my own little corner of the world and practice personal injury.

This committee has allowed me to understand, that it is the commitment to something you believe in that matters, not the specific area or organization. Find one you like and devote sometime to understanding what they do and then finding the best way for you to give back. It could be volunteering at a legal services clinic, it could be joining a board, or it can be giving financially. (By no means is this list inclusive of every which way to help) These are all great ways to contribute and make a difference, and believe me, it does make a difference.

There is much work to be done, many people that need legal help, but what makes me hopeful is knowing there are lawyers out there who are willing to commit to giving back. That is the first step, wanting to help and the rest of that path begins to unfold. So if this call to volunteer in some way reached your ears, please check out our website and start to find your own path.

Posted on June 1, 2016 by Chris Bonjean
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