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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2015

Steven F. Casey From the President President’s Message Next month, hundreds of state and local bar associations will join in a coordinated national effort to celebrate the pro bono contributions of thousands of lawyers nationwide. Originally sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service in 2009, the National Pro Bono Celebration occurs in October of each year. The Celebration is designed to encourage and support local efforts to expand delivery of pro bono legal services by showcasing the great difference that volunteer lawyers make to our system of justice, our community, and, most of all, the clients that are served. Indeed, the Birmingham Bar has much to celebrate next month! At the American Bar Association’s annual meeting this summer in Chicago, the BBA was honored with the prestigious Harrison Tweed award, which recognizes outstanding contributions by state and local bar association programs that increase access to civil legal services for indigent and low-income citizens. The award, established in 1956, is presented jointly by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. As many of you know, Harrison Tweed was an early 20th century practitioner and one of the original champions of pro bono service within the profession. Our very own Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program (BBVLP) was recognized for significantly expanding its 3 weekly court-based Help Desks, and refining and reinvigorating its processes. More specifically, it streamlined intake procedures, leveraged new technology, and improved staff support. As a result, more than 1,800 qualifying clients were assisted through the Help Desks last year alone, and that number does not include extended-representation cases! The BBVLP also established a new mentor program, where new volunteers are joined with more experienced attorneys to observe and learn before assisting clients on their own. Of key importance to the program’s success is the support of our local judiciary. Some judges have special dockets for BBVLP-qualified clients, and income qualifying pro se litigants can take advantage of Help Desk resources. In cases where Help Desk advice and counsel is insufficient, volunteer attorneys are identified to assist clients on an extendedrepresentation basis. I was proud to accept the award on behalf of Debbie Smith, President of the BBVLP Board of Directors, and the entire BBVLP Board, and also on behalf of Nancy Yarbrough, Executive Director of the BBVLP and her staff. All of them work tirelessly to continually improve this award-winning program that serves our community. Of equal importance, of course, are the more than 400 volunteer lawyers among the Program’s ranks, and you know who you are! This Award, while presented to the Birmingham Bar Association, belongs in strong measure to you and your willingness to use your special skills and talent to help those at the margins of our society. Many will know that an important part of the mission of the Birmingham Bar is to facilitate the administration of justice, and we work toward that end through our “pro bono arm,” or Volunteer Lawyers Program. It was impressive to witness our Bar Association and Volunteer Lawyers Program be recognized in front of hundreds of representatives from as many as 300 state and local bar associations nationwide, and I was humbled to accept the award on your behalf. Yet it is only through the collective and sustaining support of bar entities and local lawyers and firms that our Volunteer Lawyers Program can so positively impact our community. This year, many of our Bar’s sections have embraced pro bono service through both financial support and volunteering to staff Help Desks and provide extended representation as necessary. The Work- 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2015
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