This week, as we celebrate National Pro Bono Week, we are reminded of the growing demand for legal services for the poor.
Since 2009, the American Bar Association, through its Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, has celebrated this week-long observance as an opportunity for legal services programs nationwide to recognize providers of pro bono services, raise awareness of the increasing need for pro bono services during these challenging economic times, and encourage pro bono service.
Legal Services of Greater Miami, as the largest provider of free civil legal services for the poor in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, is proud to partake in this year’s celebration from Oct. 24 through Oct. 29. Legal Services extends legal assistance to more than 30,0000 individuals every year, a feat that would be impossible without the help of our pro bono volunteers, who work tirelessly to ensure some of our community’s most vulnerable residents have equal access to our civil justice system.
For many, this translates to having roofs over their heads, food on their tables, and access to healthcare. Last year, more than 2,000 hours of pro bono services were dedicated to Legal Services clients via individual case work or volunteers at our monthly small claims and family law clinics.
This year, thanks to the generous support of Sabadell Bank, Legal Services will host a reception on Oct. 27 in appreciation of our volunteers.
But even with the help of pro bono volunteers, it is impossible to meet the growing demand for legal services.
Currently, Legal Services attorneys in Florida are only able to meet, at most, 20 percent of the needs of indigent civil litigants. For every one client served by a federally-funded legal aid program, another one seeking help is turned away. Those who are turned away are some of the most vulnerable members of our community, including our elderly, veterans, and disabled.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said: “We are bound by a responsibility to use our unique skills and training . . . to help our nation fulfill its founding promise of equal justice under law . . . the obligation of pro bono service must become part of the DNA of both the legal profession and of every lawyer.”
As part of this celebration, we invite our entire community to elevate their pro bono and public service efforts. Please visit www.legalservicesmiami.org to learn more about Legal Services and how you can join us in providing a voice for our community’s most vulnerable residents.
Jocelyn Armand is Senior Attorney at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.