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Annual Talk to a Lawyer event a success

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While the official numbers are not yet available from Monday's statewide Talk to a Lawyer Today event that annually takes place on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all 14 pro bono districts participated.

Attorneys who work in District 8 - Boone, Hamilton, Marion, Hendricks, Hancock, Johnson, Morgan and Shelby counties - participated at the statewide call-in center at the Indiana State Bar Association. There, 26 lawyers talked to 322 callers yesterday, up from 266 last year, according to Laurie Beltz Boyd, the district plan administrator for Heartland Pro Bono Council. Boyd and others who participated said they noticed an increase in the number of calls from Marion County but said it was likely because of the publicity the event received from Indianapolis-based media outlets.

As to why lawyers participate, two Indianapolis city lawyers who volunteered at the call-in center said there were multiple reasons. Steve Neff and Leannette Pierce have volunteered every year since 2005. They agreed the CLE was a good deal; a six-hour CLE is offered to all volunteers in exchange for taking one pro bono case and volunteering two hours at Talk to a Lawyer. While Neff and Pierce cannot take pro bono cases because of their positions with the city, they paid a nominal fee instead.

Both said it was a good experience to talk about a number of legal issues with members of the community. This year, Pierce said she heard more child support questions than before; Neff said he answered many questions about debt and bankruptcy issues. Each attorney received 10 calls during the 9 to 11 a.m. shift.

While some attorneys are intimidated because they aren't used to multiple areas of law, Pierce said the book volunteers receive is very thorough. She added the book has been helpful after the event when relatives ask her legal questions she doesn't know offhand.

In District 2 - St. Joseph, Elkhart, Kosciusko, and Marshall counties - a Talk to a Lawyer event took place at the St. Joseph County Public Library. Amy McGuire, executive director of the St. Joseph County Bar Association, said 18 attorneys and 10 paralegals helped more than 90 people with a variety of legal issues. McGuire said the event was so successful and appreciated by the library that the library invited the bar association and the South Bend-based Volunteer Lawyer Network Inc. to have a similar event on a monthly basis.

In District 13 ­- Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Martin, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties -12 attorneys and five paralegals helped prepare 29 wills as part of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana Inc.'s partnership with Southwest Behavioral Healthcare. Indiana Lawyer reported on this partnership in the Aug. 19-Sept. 1, 2009, edition, "Project helps patients create wills." 

District 13 also has a regular Talk to a Lawyer Today program on the first Thursday of every month. In District 3 - Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley counties - 48 attorneys and six non-attorney volunteers helped 193 people, based on information from Indianapolis attorney Patricia McKinnon, who volunteers and helps track statistics statewide.

McKinnon also told Indiana Lawyer that in District 14 - Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Crawford, Orange, Washington, and Scott counties - seven attorney volunteers answered 16 calls, mostly about family law issues. In District 1 ­- Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, and Starke counties - plan administrator Judith Stanton was still compiling the data from multiple sites in her area. She did say the number of people asking for help was up in Starke County and down at the Valparaiso University School of Law site.

This event has been sponsored by the Indiana State Bar Association since 2002.

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