News / USA

    Concept of ‘Free Legal Help’ Gains Ground in US

    Concept of ‘Free Legal Help’ Gains Ground in USi
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    August 18, 2014 3:10 PM
    Lawyers who offer free legal help for their clients are commonly called "pro bono" lawyers. In recent years, there has been a growing number of law firms that do pro bono work. Elizabeth Lee explains the growing trend for VOA from Los Angeles.

    Lawyers who offer free legal help for their clients are commonly called "pro bono" lawyers.  In recent years, there has been a growing number of law firms in the United States that do pro bono work. Among the trend-setters is the city of Los Angeles.  

    A 65-year-old woman, who identified herself only as Linda, says she has been fighting for a year to get guardianship of her grandnephew, Michael.

    ”Because of the abuse that was occurring and the neglect, and I tried many times to get guardianship through the courts and to no avail,” says Linda of her ordeal.

    Then she found Bet Tzedek, an organization that provides free legal help to those who can’t afford a lawyer.  Bet Tzedek’s staff connected Linda with pro bono lawyers from a large law firm, and they represented her.  After a year of fighting, Linda won guardianship of Michael.

    “I was kind of numb for a while and until I said, my goodness it happened. It finally happened. Now he’s with me. Now I can go home and say to Michael, we have a home, Michael,” said Linda.

    A growing number of lawyers, many from prestigious law firms, offer free help for needy clients, says David Lash, of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers.  

    “The last 10 years has seen a substantial growth in pro bono participation among lawyers,” says Lash.

    O’Melveny & Myers handles anything from corporate law to intellectual property law.  It also has a robust pro bono program worldwide.  

    “The notion is burgeoning and growing. We’re doing a lot of pro bono work through our office in London and Brussels and lawyers in our Hong Kong and Singapore and Beijing offices are getting more and more involved in pro bono pursuits,” says Lash.

    Lash spends his workday talking to the community and organizations that offer free legal help to the needy.  He also reviews pro bono cases for his firm.

    His outreach efforts included a meeting with Bet Tzedek’s pro bono director, Diego Cartagena.  The topic: how to offer free legal help to the children coming to the United States from Central America.

    “We anticipate there will be hundreds of cases involving these children coming through the next few months,” said Cartagena.

    After this meeting, Lash got on a conference call with lawyers and advocates in another state to give advice about legal issues with immigrants.  Then, he went off to speak to a new intern about pro bono work.

    Lash says there are many reasons law firms offer free legal help.

    “In order to really maintain a competitive edge, major law firms really need to have vibrant pro bono programs. They’re invaluable ways to train young lawyers; they are great recruiting tools when we’re all interviewing at the top law schools,” says Lash.

    Lash says giving people access to justice is what democracy is all about.

    “It’s a magnificent feeling to use your skills and your profession to touch somebody’s life in a really profound way,” says Lash.  

    Linda, who got custody of Michael thanks to a pro bono lawyer, agrees.

    “They made us feel special. They didn’t make us feel like we were basically [recipients of] a handout.”

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.