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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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