Page 10

Bulletin Summer 2013

President’s Message LP provides great resources for volunteers, including forms, mentoring, free CLE, and even malpractice insurance coverage. Divorces always make up the majority of cases for which volunteers are needed, but most are uncontested, and the Jeerson County Domestic Court maintains a special docket for BBVLP cases.  ey all go to the same judge, and the court is always mindful of the fact that the lawyer is volunteering his or her time. Filing fees are waived for low income individuals, as well. Other types of cases at the BBVLP include adoptions, probate matters, consumer credit cases, bankruptcies, and miscellaneous litigation. Volunteers can specify the kinds of cases they are willing to accept. Attorneys who don’t feel comfortable going to court can still provide valuable pro bono services. Low income individuals also need assistance with things like obtaining disability bene„ts or dealing with the estate of a deceased relative who owned a home but died without leaving a will. Non-pro„t organizations that serve the poor are shouldering a huge burden on tiny budgets, and can bene„t greatly from the skills of a transactional lawyer. RB: All of us are busy. How would you recommend a lawyer to volunteer when he or she only has a few hours at a time to do so? LB: One great way to give your time without taking on a long term commitment is to volunteer at the BBVLP’s District Court or Domestic Court help desks. As most lawyers already understand, our courts have become overrun by the masses of self-represented litigants. Because they have no legal training, they frequently make incorrect „lings, are not properly prepared for hearings, and clamor for advice that neither the clerk nor the judge is in a position to oer. Many deserving litigants lose their cases simply because they are not equipped otherwise. At the help desks, attorneys provide short term advice and counseling, answering questions and helping litigants with things like selecting and completing the right form, how to properly serve process, or what they need to bring with them to court. After serving for two hours, the lawyer walks out with no further commitment. It’s easy, brief, and makes you feel great about having oered a very valuable service for someone who needed you. RB: Let’s say that a lawyer has little or no experience in handling domestic or other types of civil matters. How can that lawyer get involved? LB: For just about any type of civil matter, the BBVLP oers training. Several times each year, we have a two day seminar that covers a wide variety of topics. We also periodically oer seminars for help desk volunteers that cover the main topics that arise there. And when we conduct specialty clinics, like a divorce clinic, we oer a training program before the attorneys meet with their clients. Experienced mentors are always available to answer questions during the handling of a case. RB: Congratulations on your new position as the President of the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program Board of Directors. What is your vision for the BBVLP as we move through 2013? LB: The BBVLP has grown tremendously over the last couple of years, and is now serving many more low income people than ever before. Our main goal, of course, is to sustain that growth and continue to reach out to the community to help ensure that those in need don’t go unrepresented. I would also like to see us expand our outreach to the bar, particularly to introduce segments of the bar that are not yet involved in the rewards of pro bono contribution. We do understand that some attorneys do not litigate and thus are not comfortable handling litigation matters. We are currently brainstorming projects that will appeal to transactional lawyers, too. RB: What is the best way for Bar members to contact the BBVLP? LB: Anyone who would like to volunteer or learn more about the program can contact BBVLP Sta Attorney Stephen Hudgens, Bo Landrum at the Birmingham Bar, or me.  ey can also visit our website at www.vlpbirmingham.org Despite the fact that the BBVLP closed 1,390 cases last year, and that all volunteer lawyer programs statewide closed 3,308, we have yet to realize the goal of access to justice for everyone. Again, I am not trying to guilt our members into providing more pro bono service. But I do encourage you to remain mindful of that which only lawyers can provide – increased access to justice and legal services for those who otherwise go without. Whether it is volunteering through the BBVLP or other organizations, I hope you will make 2013 the year that you and your Žrm commit to meaningful pro bono service. G Last Chance to sign up for the BBA Lawyer Referral Service! More than 3,400 calls for legal help were received last year and more than 840 referrals were made! ”ere are a limited number of open spots on the attorney roster for 2013-14, so secure your spot today! E-mail Julie Smith at jsmith@birminghambar.org or call 251-8006. 10 Birmingham Bar Association


Bulletin Summer 2013
To see the actual publication please follow the link above