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Bulletin Summer 2013

RB: What exactly does “Pro Bono Shareholder” mean at Baker, Donelson? LB: My job is to oversee the development of pro bono programs and opportunities for Baker, Donelson lawyers.  Until about  ve years ago, our pro bono program was run by a committee of attorneys from around the  rm. All those folks had a sincere interest in pro bono, but also had full time practices and not enough time to really make progress. I was one of them. Together, we decided that if we wanted the program to really grow, we needed to have someone to devote a substantial amount of time to developing it on a daily basis. We still have a committee, but I spend most of my time working to create more and better opportunities for our lawyers to engage in pro bono. As a result of the change, our pro bono hours more than doubled in the  rst two years.  I was a shareholder (which doesn’t sound as cool as partner) in the Labor & Employment practice before transitioning to this job, and my  rm placed enough priority on pro bono that I remained a shareholder in the  rm after the shift. RB: How would you describe the unmet legal needs of Birmingham citizens? LB: First of all, the needs are great. About 17% of Je‹ erson County residents are considered to be living in poverty under the federal standard - that is less than $12,000 a year in income for an individual or $25,000 per year for a family of four. And of course, we know that many more are subsisting above that level but don’t earn nearly enough to hire a lawyer when legal problems arise.  In working with clients of the volunteer lawyers program, as well as the local homeless shelters and other service providers for low income individuals, I have really had my eyes opened about how issues most of us would consider minor, or at least not complicated, can be an unbearable burden for the poor. Imagine that you are being dunned, or President’s Message even sued, by a collection agency for a debt you don’t even think you owe. Imagine that you left your abusive spouse years ago but cannot a‹ ord to  le for divorce. Imagine that you are threatened with eviction from your barely habitable apartment by a landlord who has refused to repair problems that threaten the health or safety of your family.  N ow imagine that you live on minimum wage or a disability bene t and must choose between keeping the lights on and buying enough food to last until month’s end.  You can’t a‹ ord a lawyer, and have little education and no contacts to help you face these problems. RB: How does a lawyer go about volunteering his or her time to provide pro bono help? LB: – ere are more ways to help than many lawyers realize. Obviously, the greatest need is in handling court cases. Lawyers can volunteer to accept a case for a low income person by registering with the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program. – e BBVClear your calendar! Take the day off! Enjoy the Birmingham Bar’s annual membership picnic! Friday, June 14, 2013, at Old Car Heaven located at 115 35th Street South, Birmingham 35222. Lunch is served from 11:30am to 2:30pm. Lunch prepared fresh by the BBA Entertainment Committee! Barbecue, baked navy beans with maple syrup, homemade coleslaw, grilled chicken with white barbecue sauce, Cajun fried turkey, Boston butt pork roast, marinated grilled pork steak, shrimp jambalaya, crawfish willow, smoked ham, cakes and pies. Members only! All BBA members welcomed and encouraged to attend! Golf and Sporting Clay tournament information and registration on-line at www.birminghambar.org. Same NEW location. Same outstanding menu! Join us at Old Car Heaven Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Summer 2013 9


Bulletin Summer 2013
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