Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Proposed law in India to ensure access to justice

The Ministry of Law and Justice in India has proposed a new law for the setting up of a Legal Services Board (LSB) which is functionally similar to the one established in England and Wales.

The draft bill is currently in the public consultation process and has been titled as The Legal Practitioners (Regulations and Maintenance of Standards in Professions, Protecting the Interest of Clients and Promoting the Rule of Law) Act, 2010. The LSB along with the central and state Bars would be responsible for overseeing the lawyers’ conduct with the aim of maintaining and developing standards, education and training of legal professionals in the country. It will be headed by a chairman appointed by the President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Chairman of the Bar Council of India and other members. Some of the primary regulatory objectives of the LSB would be, to protect and promote public interest, support the constitutional principles of the rule of law and improve access to justice. A chief ombudsman and ombudsmen for each state would also be appointed to deal with complaints against legal professionals.

It must be noted that Section 27 (Chapter IV) of the bill makes it obligatory for all legal practitioners to give free legal services to the financially weaker clients who fall just above the income levels prescribed under Section 12 (h) of The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. This is a clear indication in the proposed enactment to encourage and involve lawyers in rendering their legal services on a pro bono basis and make them duty-bound in doing so.

Posted by
Anurag Bana
IBA Legal Projects Team

Friday, 12 November 2010

The newest article on the website will show you how the Roger Williams University School of Law, in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA, has matched community organizations with local practitioners and law students to provide free legal assistance to thousands of low-income individuals and families. Its innovative program, the Pro Bono Collaborative, seeks to identify local needs which attorneys with various interests and various amounts of time can successfully address.

The article discusses how to identify legal needs in your community, pitch projects to law firms, incorporate law students, launch projects, maintain project momentum, and evaluate and close projects.

Your comments on the article are most welcome below and will make a valuable dialog.

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

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Law School Pricing and Pro Bono

The top 21 U.S. law schools by rank in the popular U.S. News and World
Report rankings all list tuition of over $40,000 per year. In the case of public universities in the top 21, tuition exceeds $40,000 only for out-of-state students. Another 7 among those ranked 22nd through 50th likewise have tuitions exceeding $40,000.

Graduates having made this investment and not finding employment in the current downturn might turn to pro bono work as a way to use skills while awaiting improvement in market conditions. More broadly, an earlier post makes the case for an ethical obligation to undertake pro bono work, given that we, as gatekeepers of the self-regulating profession which this education entitles us to enter, should help secure access to justice for all.

Some, though, may view the large investment and its uncertain payoff as a deterrent from such high-minded objectives. A student recently disputed the presence of any ethical obligation to undertake pro bono work on the grounds that his education was so costly that he could properly dismiss any non-profit-making calls on his time.

Certainly one who is pressed financially can seek an institution with more manageable tuition. And some of the top-tier, top-price schools forgive loans for students working full-time in public interest positions.

But if the high price of legal education is stoking indifference to pro bono work, that's cause for concern for all of us.

Your comments are eagerly solicited.

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

Friday, 17 September 2010

Pro Bono Initiative

In 2001, the District of Columbia Bar Pro Bono Committee established the Pro Bono Initiative (PBI) to encourage D.C.’s largest law firms to increase their pro bono activities. Law firms participating in the PBI agreed to provide pro bono legal services at specified levels and to report their progress annually. At its inception, 41 law firms signed on to the PBI which number grew to 64 firms following a D.C. Bar campaign to attract additional firms.

A report issued by the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee on a 2009 survey of the PBI law firms contained information on various firms’ pro bono activities, including how they budget for pro bono, training, pro bono requirements, etc. One interesting highlight of the report was that, on average, the 53 firms which had pledged to have pro bono hours account for 3.2 percent of billable hours actually contributed 5.5 percent.

The D.C. Bar Report published the survey data without drawing specific conclusions. However, it is noteworthy that, when firms committed to providing a specified level of pro bono services, they often not only met their commitment, but exceeded it. This result merits consideration in jurisdictions where debates are underway as to the wisdom of requiring attorneys to provide specified levels of pro bono services.

Posted by
Patricia N Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Courts Taking the Lead on Access to Justice

While bar associations, law schools, international aid organizations, and others have played a significant role in addressing and raising awareness of access to justice issues, courts in recent years have taken matters into their own hands. For example, in the last several years, a number of state court systems across the US have created special access to justice commissions. See examples from Wyoming (established in 2008), Maryland (established in 2008), and Tennessee (established in 2009). The commissions take different forms, but in general they are composed of representatives from law firms and law schools, community groups, and corporations who develop policies and programs for the courts around issues such as language and cultural barriers and access issues for self represented litigants. Pro bono has been a prominent topic in the work of these commissions. Indeed, the Tennessee Supreme Court has plans for a statewide pro bono summit next year to discuss pro bono issues, preview available technology, and seek input on the development of a statewide pro bono referral system. We can stay tuned for other state court systems to follow.

Posted by
Patrice Dziire
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Monday, 26 July 2010

Cooley Law School 10CORE Project

One positive by-product of the recessionary economy in the United States has been the emergence of innovative legal assistance programs geared to the needs of those underserved by the system. The 10CORE Project in the State of Michigan is an excellent example of such an innovative idea.

In the State of Michigan, a recent study by the State Bar found that while more than three million people qualify for free help from legal aid programs, three out of every seven who request assistance are turned away for lack of resources. This denial of legal assistance is occurring at a time when the housing market in Michigan is facing a record number of foreclosures and, not surprisingly, also a record number of mortgage/ foreclosure fraudulent schemes.

To address this issue, Professor Neville-Ewell, a former general counsel of the Detroit Housing Commission and former chairperson of the Michigan State Housing Development, started the 10CORE Project at the Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The project, which is in its infancy, pairs volunteer attorneys with law students to write articles on various aspects of real estate transactions, to be published on a website for the general public. The purpose of the articles is to educate state residents on the protocols of real estate transactions in an effort to make them less likely to succumb to mortgage and foreclosure fraud.

The success of the 10CORE Project depends, in no small part, on the willingness of lawyers to devote time to the program. Because the Michigan Bar has a pro bono service requirement, there is significant optimism that the goals of the Project can be achieved. If the 10CORE Project is successful, it provides an interesting model for attacking a variety of other legal problems where education of those unable to obtain legal assistance is critical.

Posted by
Patricia N Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Low Bono versus Pro Bono: A Some or Nothing Approach?

Low bono, or reduced fee representation for individuals whose incomes are too high to qualify for legal aid, has received growing attention in recent years. Solo and small firm attorneys who regularly provide discounted services or instalment plans for lower income clients have argued that this “stealth pro bono” should be taken into account when calculating bar-mandated pro bono hours.

Debates regarding the efficacy of low bono versus pro bono in fostering access to justice have also emerged. In a recent law review article, prominent low bono advocate Luz Herrera argues that: “Pro bono models do not sufficiently address the inadequacy of affordable legal services by the private bar” and that a “shift from a pro bono to a low bono legal services model would improve access to the judicial system…” Luz Herrera, Rethinking Private Attorney Involvement Through a “Low Bono” Lens, 43 Loyola L.A. L. Rev. 2009, 1.

As full-service low bono law firms pick up steam, will we come to a “some” or “nothing” crossroads? Should certain types of services remain pro bono regardless of ability to pay “something”, i.e. domestic violence?

Posted by
Patrice Dziire
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Friday, 18 June 2010

Pro bono public interest writ reveals heart-rending living conditions of widows in India

The National Commission for Women (NCW), India recently submitted its survey report to the Supreme Court of India on the neglected condition of widows living in India. The NCW conducted this survey after an order was issued by the Supreme Court of India that accepted a pro bono writ petition filed by Ravindra Bana, a senior practising counsel at the Supreme Court and Founder Director of the Environment & Consumer Protection Foundation (ECPFO).

The writ petition was filed by Ravindra Bana on behalf of ECPFO as a Public Interest Litigation, based on a newspaper report titled White Shadows of Vrindavan that highlighted the deplorable conditions of widows who are driven out of their homes after the death of their husbands to live the rest of their lives in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. On being approached, the Supreme Court of India immediately admitted the petition and issued notices to the state and central government for their responses. In order to secure fair and detailed information about the status of these widows, the Court requested the NCW to conduct a comprehensive survey on these atrocities committed against women and to submit a report to the Court. The survey report was recently submitted after a delay and will now come up for discussion before the Court in July 2010 when the Court re-opens after its summer break.

Meanwhile, ‘The Times of India’ newspaper has provided some information about this issue, which is available here.

On a related note, the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey, USA, hosted an exhibition titled Beloved Daughters, which explored the lives of dispossessed widows and the challenges confronting women in India. The powerful exhibition consisted of exclusive photographs of Indian women paired with their testimony. A brief news article about the exhibition can be read on the Princeton University website.

Posted by
Anurag Bana
IBA Legal Projects Team

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Law School Clinic’s Petition Brings Relief to Puerto Rican Community

Along with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico, the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law filed a Petition for Precautionary Measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (“IACHR”) on behalf of residents of Villas del Sol, a community in Puerto Rico. This video, prepared by the law students and the school’s media personnel, describes the residents’ plight (English translation).

Finding that the community was on a flood plain, the local government had ordered the residents to vacate. Electric and water service had ceased. Three weeks from the scheduled eviction date, the government had not publicly identified the relocation site. Alleging violations of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and asserting the risk of further physical harm, increased mental suffering, and possible forced eviction, and relying on some 40 affidavits collected by the law students over a single weekend, the residents petitioned the IACHR on April 28, 2010 to order the United States government immediately to take measures to:

• restore the provision of water and electricity services,
• prevent further police violence,
• end police interference in emergency medical situations,
• halt the process of forced evictions,
• ensure that the relocation process of community members be peaceful—without threat to community members' lives or homes, and
• ensure that the relocation of community members be to an area where they will have access to water and electrical services and to dwellings that are safe and inhabitable and in an area free of unreasonable police surveillance or interference.

The petition was covered widely in the media and within 24 hours, water services were restored to the community. The parties are now working toward further peaceful resolution of the matter.

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

Friday, 21 May 2010

The potential for pro bono legal services in the health sector in Uganda

Litigation through pro bono services has a vital role to play in addressing the gaps in the area of public health law in Uganda. Although litigation has not effectively been used to promote public health in the country, a number of opportunities exist, including article 50 (1) of the Constitution which allows any person who claims that his or her right has been violated to seek redress from court, including compensation.

In addition, article 52 of the Constitution empowers the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to ‘investigate, at its own initiative or on a complaint made by a person or group of persons against the violation of any human rights’. The HRC has established a tribunal which handles human rights complaints against both the state and individuals. However, according to the annual Report of the HRC for 2008 over 1000 complaints were handled in the tribunal but only three were relating to health rights. In an interview with the person in charge of the Health Rights Desk at the commission it was revealed that the right to health section in the commission is relatively new. Unlike cases of torture (which had majority of the cases handled in the tribunal) where the commission collaborates with Non-governmental Organizations to help in handling the technical issues of the complaints before they reach the commission, the commission has not established such a collaboration on handling health rights complaints. This means that the majority of health rights complaints do not reach the tribunal. This provides an opportunity for working with the commission to handle health rights related complaints in Uganda.

Although there are a number of organizations working on health rights in Uganda, there is no specific organization that is focusing on litigation as an advocacy strategy for health rights. Although there are also some opportunities for provision of legal aid in Uganda, the main focus of this legal aid is in other rights such as the right to property (mostly land) and not on health rights.

The Center for Health, Human Rights and Development is working on a program of work to offer pro bono services with a specific focus on the right to health. The focus of this program of work will be on exploring the possibilities of utilizing legal remedies available to redress the problems pertaining to health rights. The anticipated outcome is an increase in pro bono legal services to improve health rights and refinement of litigation strategies in those areas where precedents of legal action exist and in those where precedents have yet to be set in Uganda and the East African Region.

The complete article is available here

Posted by:
Moses Mulumba
Center for Health, Human Rights and Development

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Simplifying Pro Bono

The Law Society of Upper Canada recently agreed to modify the standards for conflict of interest for lawyers participating in pro bono “brief” programs. The amount of time that it was taking to search and clear conflicts for lawyers volunteering at their Help Center and in their Small Claims Project was taking from 20 minutes to 3 hours. Clients were getting frustrated and law firms were being forced to drop out of the program altogether because they were being overwhelmed by the number of conflict searches required.

Denise McCourtie of the Law Society of Upper Canada provides this interesting update in the April 2010 edition of Ontario Bar Association’s official magazine Briefly Speaking.

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

Author: Denise McCourtie
Source: Ontario Bar Association’s Briefly Speaking Magazine, April 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Legal education for pro bono

Two discussions I recently had at an Italian university constituted a perspicuous proof of how much the tradition of pro bono has to do with the legal education.

What triggered my meetings with over a hundred law students was a blooming initiative of a legal clinic in the city of Turin. I was asked to introduce the concept to the future lawyers, as it is still a pioneering enterprise in the country (surprisingly enough, if you consider how much the European legal culture owes to the Romans). The approach I adopted was to explain the rationale and the challenges of the clinical adventure through the lenses of ethical dilemmas usually anticipated and often actually faced by clinical students.

The students were very enthusiastic about the clinical project and genuinely brainstormed the ethical issues. Admittedly, the first-year students interacted less but they got the message: lawyering is not (only) about books, but (also) about clients, many of whom are underprivileged in their access to justice, and it is also up to the community of lawyers to remedy the situation.

At a certain moment a professor I gave the class together with asked these fresh participants: Why did you enroll for the law studies? What are usually the reasons why an individual decides to be an avvocato? What is the viewpoint of the society at large on this? Whereas there were diverse answers to the first two questions, ranging from purely materialistic to highly missionaire, the latter issue was unequivocal to all gathered: the Italian society considers the avvocati indifferent to their service, their responsibility for the rule of law and for the access to justice to all. We received the same negative feedback on the question whether the university endeavours to sow in the students' minds and hearts the seeds of pro bono approach and, more generally, some sense of mission.

Each group of students I encountered that day, despite different studying record, was similarly immature. Their alma mater gives them only a very technical, book-oriented training, which leaves them deprived of any tools and sensitivity useful in resolving ethical issues. Often, they are not aware of the need for pro bono.

Also recently a Spanish colleague asked me how an initiative of promoting pro bono in his country can be relevant for the efforts of developing clinical programs (they have been running there for a few years). I pinpointed to the casual provision in pro bono declarations of lawyers' associations where the necessity of improving legal education is underlined (see para. 4 of the IBA Pro Bono Declaration) and argued that it must not be understood as offhand. Accordingly, I suggested that establishing cooperation between abogados and the academia is natural and should be fruitful to both. Fortunately, I have met quite some Italians who believe it as well.

Posted by
Jacek Kowalewski
University of Warsaw graduate
Pro bono activist in Poland and Italy

Monday, 29 March 2010

New York Law School’s Safe Passage Immigration Project

The Safe Passage Immigration Project is a unique pro bono model. We are part of the Justice Action Center of New York Law School. The project’s co-directors are Professor Lenni B Benson and Adjunct Professor Lindsay A Curcio. Safe Passage trains and mentors pro bono attorneys to represent children needing immigration assistance.

A recent study found that an estimated 43,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children were removed from the US in 2007 and that 50 to 70 percent of unaccompanied minors who appeared before an immigration judge that year did so without legal representation. [Read a PDF of the report here.] Some of these children are escaping abuse or political turmoil in their home countries. Others have been victims of smugglers or trafficking. In some situations, children have lived most their lives in the US unaware that their parents or guardians failed to secure a legal immigration status for them. While these children are entitled to counsel in immigration proceedings, the federal government does not provide this legal representation as immigration is a civil matter.

US immigration laws provide special relief for some, but not all these children. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is extraordinary relief leading to permanent residence for eligible children, teens and young adults under the age of 21. The Safe Passage Immigration Project helps social service providers, foster care agencies and non-profit organizations screen juvenile populations and identify immigration issues and relief available to these children. Safe Passage brings together pro bono attorneys, including New York Law School alumni, and current volunteer law students dedicated to providing direct client services for special immigrant juvenile status cases. Safe Passage continues to monitor each case throughout the process.

New York Law School students may volunteer for the Safe Passage Immigration Project to develop training and intake materials for special immigrant juvenile status cases. Our students also provide language translation assistance between volunteer attorneys and clients and assist in research and case preparation. In addition to their volunteer work with Safe Passage they participate in other immigration events such as clinics and initiatives sponsored by the New York City Bar Association, Justice for Our Neighbors and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

In Spring 2008, Safe Passage received the New York State Bar Association’s President’s Pro Bono Award for its innovative program. For more information about Safe Passage and special immigrant juvenile status, please visit the site, which also contains our current newsletter.

Posted by
Lindsay A Curcio
New York Law School

Monday, 15 March 2010

Legal aid funding and the financial crisis

In December 2009, the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission and the D.C. Consortium of Legal Service Providers issued a report that reflected the negative effect the financial crisis has had on the funding of legal aid programs in the DC.
Among other things, the report revealed a 60 percent drop in Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), which is an important source of funding for legal aid; a 20 percent drop in local government funding support for legal services; and a decrease of more than $1 million in charitable donations and volunteer services. As a result, 21 lawyers working for legal aid organizations along with 30 non lawyers had to be laid off. At the same time these cuts were being made, the demand for legal assistance increased by 20 percent.

The DC experience is mirrored in Connecticut, which has traditionally also been largely dependent on IOLTA accounts to provide funds for its legal service organizations. One Connecticut legal service organization avoided layoffs by its staff of lawyers and non lawyers agreeing to a 20 percent reduction in salaries and a 4 day work week.

The IBA Pro Bono and Access to Justice Committee, the IBA Bar Issues Commission, and the IBA Forum for Barristers and Advocates will be co-presenting a session at the IBA Annual Conference in Vancouver, 3-8 October 2010, that will explore the issue of legal aid funding, including the ramifications when governments fail to provide adequate funding for legal aid programs.

We doubt that DC and Connecticut are unique in suffering these problems and would welcome further examples from other jurisdictions in order further to inform our Vancouver discussions.

Posted by
Patricia N Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A revolution in legal aid -- obligatory legal assistance bill in Israel

A new bill, under which the Israel Bar Association will be obligated to provide legal assistance to under-privileged populations, was approved by the Knesset in late November 2009.

Initiated by the President of the Israel Bar, Adv. Yori Geiron, and Knesset-Member, Yariv Levin, the new law made the current non-obligatory function of providing legal assistance to deprived populations, into an obligatory one. The bill gained the support of a large number of Knesset members, wanting to ensure that access to the justice system will be available to all people, regardless of their financial means.

This is an important precedent for the Israel Bar, as for the first time, it is the Bar itself which undertakes to provide legal services to the public, a project which is fully sponsored by the Bar.

It is important to note, however, that the new law does not require each lawyer to take on pro bono work, but it is an obligation of the Bar itself, through its volunteer lawyers.

The law will become effective over the next few months, once rules determining eligibility for such legal assistance by the Bar will be adopted.

President Yori Geiron: 'Practicing law is not just a profession, it is a social responsibility, and one of its missions is to increase access to the justice system, as a basic right. It is with this in mind, and after a continuing debate within the Bar, that the Bar was able to operate its pro bono program, "Schar Mitzva", for the past 7 years, providing legal assistance to under-privileged people across the country, with over 2,500 volunteer lawyers. This is an essential project, which provides legal assistance and full representation to thousands of people each year.'

Knesset-Member Yariv Levin: 'This bill is an important stage in the efforts to empower under-privileged populations and help many to break out of the circle of poverty. Using the legal advice provided to them, many people could fight for what they are legally entitled to and protect themselves, against suits filed against them. This way, those people will be able to break out of the circle of poverty. At the same time, this will prevent court decisions, obligating those people to pay enormous amounts, simply due to the fact that they were not represented in court, thereby, sending them back to the circle of poverty.'

Posted by Adv. Dikla Elkabets
Israel Bar Association

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Polish Pro Bono Centre

Further to Penny Blair’s 6 July 2009 post on pro bono clearinghouses and the fruitful thread that followed, the example of the Polish Pro Bono Centre can illustrate how broad activities can a clearinghouse roll out to strategically mainstream pro bono. The Polish Pro Bono Centre does not only work as focal point between NGOs and law firms. It is also active in promoting the culture of pro bono and in amending the legal framework in order to facilitate lawyers' commitment to pro bono.

The Centre is involved in granting the annual Pro Bono Lawyer Award, established by the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation. It has been lobbying for exemption of pro bono legal advice from VAT. In turn, if we look on the side of the NGOs, the lawyers who cooperate with the Centre gave five workshops to over 150 NGO managers on the legal framework of the non-profit sector.

The Centre is a young (operating since 2008) and small entity, but it is already quite well-known. Mind that it is a fruit of a discussion accompanying the signing of the Pro Bono Declaration in mid-2007. The signing ceremony was hosted by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal with participation of some important representatives of the country's legal world. “This Declaration - expressed Filip Czernicki of the Legal Clinics Foundation during the event - is inspired by the Polish legal community’s long professional tradition of public service, and affirms the critical role of pro bono practitioners in ensuring fair and equal access to justice among all segments of society.” (, The Pro Bono Wire, Sept. 2007) The same can be said about the Centre, and I find its ability to build on and to develop the pro bono tradition a useful hint for some current West-European initiatives aiming at launching national clearinghouses.

Interestingly, the Centre has been constituted by the Polish Legal Clinics Foundation, which underlines the link between the training of young lawyers and the practice of more mature professionals.

For more information, consult:
- The Polish Legal Clinics Foundation/Lawyer Pro Bono
- The Pro Bono Wire, Sept. 2007 (the text of the Polish Pro Bono Declaration)

Posted by Jacek Kowalewski
University of Warsaw graduate
Pro bono activist in Poland and Italy

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Haiti: a Setback for Legal Aid in Port-au-Prince

According to news reports, the extent of the devastation in Port–au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, grows daily. One important project affected by the earthquake is the young and developing legal aid program in Haiti.

At the IBA Annual Conference in Chicago in fall 2006, the then-President of the Port-au-Prince Bar and Vice-President of the Federation of the Bars of Haiti, Gervaise Charles, discussed the legal aid program of the Bar in the context of the many other access to justice issues presented by the Haitian legal infrastructure. This legal aid program, in effect for less than two years, was limited to penal matters, but had achieved favorable results beyond which those that the Port-au-Prince Bar had thought were possible. A summary of Gervaise Charles' presentation at the IBA Pro Bono and Access to Justice Committee's session in Chicago may be viewed on our website.

Since then, the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), a consortium of NGOs throughout the world providing technical legal assistance in post conflict situations, has worked tirelessly to develop a legal aid program in Haiti. There are 15 judicial districts in Haiti, including Port-au-Prince, all of which have local bar associations. ILAC has established eleven offices around the country, with 120 local employees. The coordinating office is located in Port-au-Prince. The earthquake on January 12, 2010, destroyed the Port-au-Prince legal aid facility. Fortunately, all of those who work on the legal aid project in Port-au-Prince escaped uninjured. All the other legal aid offices in Haiti remain operational.

The need for legal aid/pro bono programs during the aftermath of natural disasters is well-known in the United States, where the legal infrastructure virtually collapsed in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a short period of time, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hopefully, ILAC's legal aid project can quickly "regroup" as it will clearly be needed in the coming months to deal with the legal problems that will necessarily confront Port-au-Prince's largely indigent population as they seek to recover from the loss of life and possessions.

Posted by
Patricia N Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

You may also wish to read about or donate to the IBA Appeal for the Reconstruction of the Haitian Judiciary.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Student Support for International Pro Bono Work

We at the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center at the University of Miami School of Law are always looking for new ways to collaborate and support innovative pro bono programming. Because of my background with the UNICTR and the UNHCR, I am particularly interested in engaging students in international human rights and am very interested in exploring ways to partner with members of the International Bar Association’s Pro Bono and Access to Justice Committee, particularly in the following ways: (1) support of litigation remotely via the Pro Bono Legal Research Project and (2) HOPE Fellowship placement.

First, at the HOPE Office I manage the Pro Bono Legal Research Project (PBLRP). The PBLRP is a way to help support practitioners doing crucial work when they might not have the legal research or drafting support they need. In the past we have had students working on a number of different cases dealing with issues such as constitutional law related to housing rights, reparations for Holocaust victims, and a recent case dealing with criminal procedure that was heard by the Florida Supreme Court. The typical format has been for an attorney with a pro bono or public interest case to contact our office for research support and complete a short form. I then send an e-mail to our PBLRP students with the information to determine which students are able to provide research and have an interest in the specific topic. At that point I either connect the attorney with the interested students or, I provide the student resumes for the attorney to decide the appropriate match. After that, the HOPE office is a point of contact for the students and the attorney regarding ongoing management of the research project but the specific scheduling and content of the work product is between the students and the attorney. We have a number of students who are very keen to be involved in international litigation and would surely be thrilled to contribute to the work of the members of the IBA Pro Bono and Access to Justice Committee.

Second, at the University of Miami School of Law we have a unique HOPE Fellowship program available to students during their 1L and 2L summers. HOPE Fellows work with domestic and international public interest agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide much-needed legal advocacy. Over the years, the program has grown from two local agencies to include international placements in countries such as Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Lebanon, England, and China. The HOPE Public Interest Resource Center sponsors the program and helps students to identify agencies that match their passions for service. Students receive a stipend for their work and are required to identify ways in which they can uniquely contribute to the agencies and constituencies they serve. When they return to campus, Fellows then design a project to involve other UM Law students in advocacy related to the their area of concentration. HOPE is eager to establish relationships with organizations needing support and receptive to HOPE Fellows applications. I am happy to provide more information and learn about your organization's specific needs.

I look forward to supporting the work of the members of the IBA Pro Bono and Access to Justice Committee. Please contact me at for more information and to learn more about the HOPE Office. Additionally, I welcome ideas for further collaboration not addressed above.

Posted by
Lara O’Neill
Project Coordinator
HOPE Public Interest Resource Center
University of Miami School of Law