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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. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  3. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  4. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

  5. Oh yes, lifetime tenure. The Founders gave that to the federal judges .... at that time no federal district courts existed .... so we are talking the Supreme Court justices only in context ....so that they could rule against traditional marriage and for the other pet projects of the sixties generation. Right. Hmmmm, but I must admit, there is something from that time frame that seems to recommend itself in this context ..... on yes, from a document the Founders penned in 1776: " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

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