Thursday, December 12, 2013

Celebrating Pro Bono Week 2013

By Allison W. Singer

In 2009, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service announced plans to launch the first National Celebration of Pro Bono.  Four years later, the celebration continues.  Each October, bar associations across the country join together to celebrate Pro Bono Week — a week of events designed to highlight the efforts of attorneys doing pro bono work in their communities, as well as to recruit additional pro bono attorneys to increase services to low-income individuals.  The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit has actively participated in the event since its inception and continued its support this year ― from October 20 to 26.

The Pro Bono Committee encouraged its members — which include the sections of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, as well as other voluntary bar associations — to host an event during or around the time of Pro Bono Week.  Leading by example on this front was the George Edgecomb Bar Association (GEBA), which hosted its annual Learn Your Legal Rights Community Workshop on September 28 at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

The workshop, which was intended to educate community members about their legal rights, attracted approximately 100 attendees.  For several years, GEBA has sponsored this event, at which its members present substantive courses on topics that disproportionately impact minority and low-income citizens, including employment discrimination, family law, personal injury, criminal law, and foreclosure.  Henry G. Gyden, the workshop co-chair and GEBA’s immediate past president, explained that this year GEBA added to its already impressive list of courses a presentation on the Affordable Care Act, as well as a screening of “Before the Law Was Equal,” the documentary co-produced by the HCBA’s Young Lawyers Division and Diversity Committee.

GEBA President Cory J. Person emphasized how seriously his organization takes its pro bono obligation, noting that it is part of GEBA’s by-laws and mission.  He praised his members for their efforts in creating an annual event that fulfills that mission by sharing with the community the breadth and diversity of members’ expertise.  He was especially grateful for the efforts of co-chairs Henry G. Gyden and Kamilah Perry, as well as Charles M. Holloman II and Clinton Paris.  The fall workshop was so successful that GEBA is planning a similar event for the spring of 2014. 

This is what it means to incorporate pro bono into our legal DNA.  Thank you, GEBA, for continuing to set the pace for pro bono in our community.