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IndyBar: Have a Question? Just Ask a Lawyer!

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By Leslie Pollie, Kopka Pinkus Dolin & Eads PC

It is no secret that the legal profession has been increasingly focused on community and pro bono services in the past few years. This emphasis has led many firms to recognize the pro bono efforts of their attorneys, with some firms enacting yearly pro bono hour requirements that count as credit toward an attorney’s billable hour requirement.
 

ask-a-lawyer-photo-15col.jpg An IndyBar volunteer assists a member of the public at the Indianapolis Public Library Central Library branch during the Spring 2013 Ask a Lawyer event on April 9.

What many attorneys may not realize is that the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct also address a lawyer’s responsibility to share his or her legal knowledge and experience to those who cannot otherwise afford such services. ABA Model Rule 6.1 states “[e]very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.” Rule 6.1 goes on to recommend that every attorney aspire to donate 50 hours a year of pro bono services to the community. This may leave many attorneys, especially those new to the bar, wondering where or how to donate their time. Fortunately, attorneys in Indianapolis have to look no further than the Indianapolis Bar Association.

Indianapolis Bar Association’s Pro Bono Standing Committee oversees and provides support for many of the pro bono opportunities in Marion County, including the most popular—our Ask a Lawyer program. Since the spring of 2005, IndyBar attorney volunteers have served more than 5,000 members of the Indianapolis community both in person and by phone through this program, which is offered twice yearly in April and October.

Through the Ask a Lawyer program, attorneys reach out into the community to provide both knowledge and compassion. During each Ask a Lawyer event, nearly 100 member attorneys go to various Indianapolis Public Library branches to provide free legal advice to community residents. Anyone with legal questions can meet with a lawyer and have their questions answered. In order to serve as many citizens as possible, the consultations are limited to approximately fifteen minutes. The topics of discussion range from domestic matters and landlord/tenant issues to probate questions. Volunteers are provided with informational packets designed to guide them through many common questions and issues that have arisen throughout the years. In addition, volunteers are given contact information for other organizations that may provide additional assistance and representation to those in need.

Often, the attorney is able to answer questions, provide direction or additional information to the public about additional available legal services. For those attorneys, it is important to note that the consultations are anonymous and no additional follow up will occur. Consequently, attorneys are able to provide important information to the community.

The program would not be successful without the support of the dynamic IndyBar paralegal members as well. Paralegals serve as site coordinators, hitting neighborhoods in advance with posters to advertise the program, working with library staff, greeting the public and orientating the attorney volunteers before their shift.

Not only can members of the community meet with an attorney in person during the Ask a Lawyer program, they can also call in to the IndyBar office to get legal advice from an attorney over the phone during Legal Lines, which takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. As with the in-person meetings, the calls are confidential for both parties and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. This is also simply a two-hour time commitment.

Every quarter, the Pro Bono Standing Committee will be highlighting a different Indianapolis pro bono opportunity. The IndyBar strongly believes in its members and their ability to make a difference in the community and strives to provide a wide range of service opportunities. If you read about a program that interests you, please contact Caren Chopp at cchopp@indybar.org for more information about getting involved.•

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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