Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Access to justice in the Rural Philippines

Attorney Angelito Orozco is chief legal counsel of the local government of Olongapo City in Central Luzon, Philippines, and describes that office’s work for poor clients there as follows:

It is an integral part of my job to provide mediation/arbitration, albeit in an informal way, especially to poor clients who cannot afford costly and lengthy formal litigation. Their cases would range from simple collection of small money claims, grievances against neighbors or employees of the city government, family matters, and the like. We also dispense legal advice on matters involving eviction/ejectment, petty crimes, annulment of marriage, adoption of minors, and the like.

Further, we coordinate with the Bureau of Jail Management and the regular courts for visits to detention prisoners to ensure that their basic constitutional rights and right to Speedy Trial Act are being observed; otherwise, such can be a ground for the dismissal of their cases. Lastly, we also provide legal representation to indigent clients but on a limited number and basis at this point, owing to financial and time constraints.

Posted by
Robin Westbrook
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Pro bono in South Africa

During 2002, the members of the Cape Law Society (including attorneys in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape), unanimously adopted a resolution giving rise to a rule obliging all practising lawyers (with one or two exceptions) to render a minimum of 24 hours pro bono service to those who cannot afford to pay legal fees.

Following this, the Cape Law Society concluded joint venture agreements (and continues to do so) with NGOs serving the poor who required free legal assistance on behalf of the people they serve or, in certain circumstances, assistance to the NGOs itself.

The law societies with jurisdiction in other provinces in South Africa (the Free State Law Society, Law Society of the Northern Provinces and KwaZulu Natal Law Society) all adopted similar rules, with KwaZulu Natal being the last province to consider whether or not the rule should be made obligatory.

The provincial law societies have all appointed provincial co-ordinators, and the Law Society of South Africa has appointed a national co-ordinator to facilitate the process of pro bono nationally. We are currently working towards convening a national conference with the view to establishing a rule to set in place national norms and standards for pro bono.

Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs ('ENS') is the largest law firm in Africa, with offices in Cape Town, Gauteng (Johannesburg) and KwaZulu Natal (Durban). ENS is currently the only firm in South Africa to establish dedicated pro bono offices.

Its first pro bono office is in the township called Mitchell's Plain, an impoverished area in the Western Cape, where ENS renders services to the communities of Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain.

Its second dedicated pro bono office is in the township of Alexandra in Gauteng, with the aim of bridging the historical divide that exists between suburbs such as Alex and Sandton, two very different worlds.

Both offices are managed by qualified lawyers, and every professional of the firm dedicates 32 hours per year rendering services to the poor on their doorstep, rather than expecting them to find their (often impossible) way to Cape Town or Sandton.

Posted by
Taswell Papier
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Monday, 14 September 2009

More pro bono celebration

The First Annual United States National Pro Bono Celebration is scheduled for October 25 through 31, 2009. Sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, the celebration is a coordinated national effort to showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve. The week is also dedicated to the quest for more pro bono volunteers to meet the ever-growing legal needs of this country's most vulnerable citizens.

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service chose to launch this important initiative now because of the increasing need for pro bono services during these harsh economic times and the unprecedented response of attorneys to meet this demand.

Although national in breadth, this celebration provides an opportunity for local legal associations across the country to collaboratively commemorate the contributions of America's lawyers and, most important, to recruit additional volunteers to meet the growing need.

One of the guiding principles of the Pro Bono Committee's planning is to support existing local pro bono awards, events and programs. The legal needs of the poor are local issues, and although nationwide, this celebration is intended to have a local focus and impact. Goals for the celebration include:
1. Recognizing the pro bono efforts of America's lawyers
2. Recruiting more pro bono volunteers
3. Mobilizing community support for pro bono.

The Celebrate Pro Bono website at www.celebrateprobono.org is designed to maximize participation in the National Pro Bono Celebration. Please visit often for updates, additional information and assistance.

Posted by
Anthony H. Barash
Director Emeritus, ABA Center for Pro Bono