Vol. 29, No. 2
Pro Bono Success Stories
What is a Pro Bono Success Story?
by JoAnn Viola Salazar
Recently, I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I was on vacation and had no intention of even thinking about work. Imagine my surprise to learn that the ongoing theme of Mardi Gras is "Pro Bono Publico," which means, literally translated, "for the good of the people." Surely, this is a sign that I am in the right job at the right time!
As the statewide pro bono support director, I proposed the idea of publishing a regular column in The Colorado Lawyer. I wanted to relate stories about worthwhile and successful efforts undertaken around the state "for the good of the people." However, what constitutes a pro bono success story? When I think of a definition of "success," I think of terms like "achievement," "accomplishment," "victory," and "triumph." Here are a few short examples of pro bono successes encompassing these terms.
Examples of Success
The Thirteenth Judicial District Bar Association has succeeded in keeping its pro bono office open and running after its volunteer coordinator retired. Members put their own time, energy, and money into the effort to provide continuous, meaningful access to the justice system for those who otherwise would not have a voice. The office continues to provide that access.
Robert Truhlar, president, and members of the Arapahoe County Bar Association ("ACBA") have demonstrated their unique version of a successful joint effort for the public good. In Bob Truhlar's columns in the ACBA News Briefs, he has expressed some good-natured concern that ACBA members might pick him up and cart him away to another continent just to be rid of his pro bono nagging. He continues to nag; his nagging recently brought in donations of over 1,000 pairs of socks. They were given to the St. Francis Center in Denver and will keep a lot of homeless toes warm this winter.
Garfield Legal Services and the Glenwood Springs community have joined to create a pro bono success. The Sixth Annual "Jail House Rock" will be held in early April 2000. Local attorneys again will donate their time and energy to organizing and gathering donated items from local merchants for a silent auction. These local merchants have supported this fundraiser consistently and generously over the years. Donations can include everything from ski packages to hot springs tickets to artwork and other merchandise. Attorneys and the public attend the auction and dance, which not only raises much needed funding for the office, but also gives the public the opportunity to learn about the office and to invest in its effort as a community.
Specialty Bar and Other
Special purpose bar associations have been involved in successful programs on behalf of the community. For example, the Colorado chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has a pro bono program that has assisted many of those who can no longer turn to legal services programs for representation due to case limitations imposed by Congress. Also, each year, the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association sponsors a mentoring program at Horace Mann Middle School in Denver, in addition to other worthwhile projects, such as the new walk-in legal clinic at the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.
The Lend-A-Lawyer program has made it possible for young attorneys to gain experience in the courtroom and work one-on-one with clients. This program, which began in 1989 as a CBA president's project, is unique to Colorado and continues to serve the state's indigent population. Currently, there are five Lend-A-Lawyers working in offices around the state.
The Denver Bar Association has teamed with KUSA-TV Channel 9 for a weekly call-in hotline called Lawline 9. Each Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., attorneys with only a limited amount of time to donate can answer telephone questions called in by members of the community.
Individual clients are successes, not just because they may have won a case, but because pro bono assistance has helped them regain control over their lives and develop a sense of self- sufficiency and dignity. During the past two years, this column has featured stories about clients who have expressed their appreciation to the pro bono coordinators and about lawyers who helped them in ways that may have changed their lives for the better. This is what it is really all about—working for the good of the people. Additionally, attorneys, paralegals, and other members of the legal profession who offer their pro bono participation in these community efforts cite the knowledge and experience they have gained as their personal successes.
One article cannot possibly include all of the stories of success around the state. Many groups work to meet the needs of the community in Colorado. Do you have a pro bono success story you would like to share with the members of the Colorado Bar Association? If so, please call Jo Ann Salazar at (303) 860-1115 or (800) 332-6736. Success should be shared!
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