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- 2013 - December - 2nd -

Pro bono by the numbers

By Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair

The need for pro bono legal services has never been greater. Many of our colleagues have gotten that message and have responded.

Many more attorneys have taken pro bono cases this year than in 2012. In fact, here are some numbers that illustrate the point:

In 2012, approximately 460 cases were placed with pro bono attorneys. In 2013 (so far) more than 600 cases have been accepted for representation by nearly 300 pro bono attorneys. That's a 30 percent increase in pro bono representation already, and we have five weeks left in the year.

In 2012, the total number of hour spent on pro bono cases was approximately 4,500. In 2013 (to date) more than 6,100 pro bono case hours have been reported. If you multiply those hours by the (conservative) hourly rate of $200, the value of the pro bono representation in 2013 is $1.22 million.

Already in 2013, another 200-plus attorneys have participated in one-day outreach events to low-income and vulnerable persons and pro bono development efforts.

These include Ask-A-Lawyer opportunities, Citizenship Day, group information clinics, intake at the City Rescue Mission and Advance Directives for Senior Citizens events, as well as teaching webinars and serving as expert resources for other pro bono attorneys.

These pro bono efforts have yielded more than 3,000 hours in pro bono service to date.

Those are some of the numbers. The numbers are impressive but they do not adequately capture the impact of the work.

The real story, the important story, is told by each of the clients who were served by these efforts: the person caught in domestic violence seeking a new, safe start; the immigrant being wrongly identified for deportation; the family facing foreclosure; the worker whose wages are improperly garnished; the senior citizen victimized by predatory lending; the veteran appealing denial of benefits; the grandmother seeking custody of her grandchild.

The real story is also told by the more than 500 attorneys who served these and so many other clients.

The numbers listed above represent the pro bono efforts of our local civil legal services agencies, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Three Rivers Legal Services, and the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership.

Pro bono hours are also logged and low-income, vulnerable clients served through Guardian Ad Litem, the Attorney Ad Litem Judicial Appointment Panel, the Civil Judicial Appointment Panel, and the Office of Public Defender pro bono project.

The conclusion is this: The commitment to pro bono legal service is alive, well and growing in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

The shocking reality is that with roughly 25 percent of our local population living at or below the federal poverty threshold for free legal services, more pro bono attorneys are desperately needed. One Client. One Attorney. One Promise.

All attorneys in the 4th Circuit are encouraged to make a pro bono commitment that is manageable and rewarding.

Contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org or visit the new JBA website (jaxbar.org) for more information on pro bono opportunities throughout Northeast Florida.

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