This year, the legal community is celebrating Pro Bono week from October 20th - 26th. Started in 2009 to meet the increasing need for such services during harsh economic times, the National Celebration of Pro Bono highlights the work of lawyers, paralegals, and law students who volunteer their services to those who cannot afford an attorney. According to the ABA, “Pro bono work is a professional responsibility, an individual ethical commitment of each lawyer.”
The 2019 Pro Bono week focuses on the need for legal assistance for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, as ABA President Judy Perry Martinez expresses in the brief video posted on the association’s Pro Bono webpage. Locally, the Women Against Abuse Legal Center provides free legal advocacy and representation for Philadelphians experiencing relationship violence in family law matters such as Protection From Abuse and custody cases.
The celebration also showcases legal aid organizations and the opportunities that such organizations offer for pro bono work in local communities. Both the Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Bar Associations, for example, have joined the ABA in planning events to encourage more pro bono volunteers across the state and the city, respectively. A few highlights offered in Philadelphia this week include the following:
- Monday, Oct. 21: SeniorLAW Center training on assisting seniors with civil legal issues through the PA SeniorLAW Helpline
- Tuesday, Oct. 22: Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project (CBAP) training on the fundamentals of completing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition for a low-income client
- Wednesday, Oct. 23: Support Center for Child Advocates training on how to handle a child abuse case
- Wednesday, Oct. 23: Philadelphia VIP clinic in which volunteers are paired with a small business to provide day-of legal advice on transactional matters
The ABA also recently launched an ongoing volunteer opportunity through the Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA) called Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation. This website allows attorneys to search for pro bono cases for unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings across the country. Locally, HIAS-PA serves immigrants and refugees, and may have opportunities for attorneys to take on pro bono asylum cases.
Celebrate Pro Bono week in 2019 by attending a training, volunteering at a clinic, taking a case through one of the opportunities listed above, or by supporting one of Philadelphia’s many public interest legal organizations!