Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pro Bono Committee: How Did You Celebrate National Pro Bono Week 2014?

By Amy L. Bandow

Once each year, the American Bar Association designates a week to celebrate pro bono legal service. It is a week when legal communities across the nation strive to not only help those who cannot afford much needed legal assistance but also to bring awareness to the need for such services and recognize the great efforts of its members. The ABA designated October 19-24, 2014, for the National Pro Bono Celebration.

The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s legal community got a head start on the celebration by kicking off its activities on October 7 with a Business Law Advice Clinic for Nonprofits. The event took place at the Judge Don Castor Community Law Center, a project of the Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program. The event provided an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to have a free consultation about transactional matters. The celebration continued with a Wills for Heroes event at the Hillsborough County Bar Association on October 11. At the event, attorneys and paralegals came together to prepare wills and estate planning documents for first responders. The following week, the Board of County Commissioners for Hillsborough County issued a proclamation declaring the week of October 19, 2014, to be Pro Bono Week in Hillsborough County. During the proclamation presentation, the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s Pro Bono Committee unveiled a new pro bono recruitment video featuring local attorney Betsey Hapner and one of her very appreciative pro bono clients. The video was created ― pro bono ― by Larry Wiezycki, a member of the media team at the law firm of James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich, P.A. Additionally, the HCBA’s Young Lawyers Division hosted a luncheon focused on pro bono and community service opportunities. The George Edgecomb Bar Association also got a head start on Pro Bono Week by hosting a Legal Redress Workshop for the public on October 18. At the workshop, GEBA members taught one-hour courses on several topics.

Pro Bono Week featured, among other events, an information table in the George Edgecomb Courthouse. Bay Area Legal Services staffed the table to distribute information about local pro bono programs to members of the public seeking assistance and attorneys interested in donating their time and talents. Pro Bono Week also included a kick-off reception for a new initiative – the Tampa Bay Pro Bono Partnership  which provides an opportunity for in-house counsel to team up with attorneys from private law firms and perform pro bono service together. Additionally, the Tampa Hispanic Bar Association hosted a seminar and pro bono case adoption event about domestic violence. The week concluded with a Regional Training for Guardian Advocate Cases, which was hosted by a collaborative team of organizations, including the Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program, Community Law Program, Legal Aid of Manasota, and Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program Northwest. The training was offered free to attorneys willing to accept a pro bono guardian advocate case.

Last but not least, Crossroads for Florida Kids extended the Pro Bono Week Celebration into November and hosted a free training/CLE seminar regarding representing children in dependency and delinquency proceedings.

If you are interested in participating in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s Pro Bono Committee or learning more about the committee’s member organizations mentioned in this article, please contact Committee Chair Rosemary Armstrong at