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Bulletin Summer 2013

President’s Message Robert R. Baugh From the President is article is about pro bono service by lawyers. Don’t turn the page! I am not trying to make you feel guilty or cause you to wonder how to squeeze more hours from your day to donate to another legal matter. But because pro bono is such an integral part of our profession, it is important to acknowledge the tremendous contributions that lawyers make to our community. When we look around the Birmingham area, we  nd lawyers in leading roles in most every organization that provides services to our community. Examples include Mike Warren who heads Children’s Hospital, Stephen Black who is in charge of Impact Alabama, and Fred McCallum who is leading the 2013 United Way fundraising campaign. In addition, we  nd a disproportionate number of lawyers in the roles of little league coaches, Boy Scout leaders, and leadership volunteers with civic and non-pro t organizations. All of this work takes time, but makes valuable contributions to our youth and others in need of support and guidance. One opportunity that uniquely belongs to us as lawyers, of course, is to promote access to justice and o‘ er pro bono representation. Rule 6.1 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct reads as follows: A lawyer should render public interest legal service. A lawyer may concept of “justice for all” remains elusive. Many organizations work hard to help  ll the gap in providing legal assistance to those of limited means. e Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program, for example, connects area lawyers with qualifying clients to provide pro bono help. Birmingham’s Legal Aid Society provides free court-appointed legal representation for children and low income adults. e Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice advocates for systemic policy reforms to achieve justice and fairness for low-income and unrepresented populations. Legal Services Alabama is dedicated to providing access to justice and free quality civil legal aid and assistance to educate and empower Alabama’s low-income community. And the YWCA’s Family Law Center provides comprehensive civil legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. One individual who devotes her professional career and much of her personal time to this cause is Lisa Borden, Pro Bono Shareholder at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC. Lisa is also the new President of the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program, and I had a recent opportunity to meet with Lisa and talk about the state of voluntarily-provided legal services in Birmingham. discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means or to public service or charitable groups or organizations, by service in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession, and by nancial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means. Many lawyers fully meet this provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct on a regular basis. If all lawyers did, we most likely wouldn’t see courts or legislatures craft pro bono “requirements” for lawyers. In New York State, for example, Bar applicants must complete 50 hours of pro bono service prior to admission into the state Bar. I suspect that the end results would be more successful, and more meaningful, if lawyers responded to the need for pro bono services because it is a part of the “calling” of the law, as opposed to a legislated requirement. Fifty years ago this year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right to counsel for criminal defendants regardless of their ability to pay. Civil matters, of course, were not covered by the decision. According to the national Legal Services Corporation, more than 60 million Americans qualify for pro bono civil legal services, while more than 80% of the legal needs of the poor go unmet. us, the 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Bulletin Summer 2013
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