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IndyBar: Volunteer to Take a Pro Bono Family Law Case

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By Joe Mulvey, Rubin & Levin PC
 

mulvey-joe-mug Mulvey

The lack of licensed attorneys willing to assume responsibility for routine family law matters is a universal concern for pro bono legal service providers. Although volunteer programs such as the IndyBar’s Legal Line and Ask A Lawyer events provide general information to direct those with legal needs in the right direction, these independent events do not provide the ongoing legal services often necessary to fully resolve a particular issue.

Although assuming responsibility for a pro bono legal matter is a healthy step forward in commitment from a closed-ended legal advice session, the need is great. There are resources out there to assist you, and the benefit provided can be tremendous. Here are some frequently asserted reasons for not taking a pro bono family law case, and some responses.

1. I don’t know anything about family law and I’m worried about making a mistake.

Basic family law CLEs provide the fundamental information, forms and resources for taking on a family law case. The Heartland Pro Bono Council, for example, offered a two-hour CLE in late February of this year, providing draft divorce petitions, engagement letters, client questionnaires and an abundance of literature on various low-income family law programs that can be offered to pro bono clients. They are offering a similar CLE in July. The trainings also establish points of contact to experienced family law attorneys who can help provide guidance when more sophisticated issues arise. Importantly, most service providers tailor their referrals to match the experience level of the volunteering attorney—i.e., uncontested, no-asset, no children divorces can be assigned to family law rookies.

2. I have too much work to do and don’t have time to take on a pro bono case.

This is an obvious concern with respect to both personal time and billable hours (working on a pro bono case will encroach on one or the other), but it is a manageable one. From a billable hour perspective, most firms permit attorneys to count at least a portion of their pro bono work towards billable hour goals. Although taking on a pro bono case may mean a few extra hours in the office, pro bono veterans find that helping someone truly in need of legal representation can offset the weariness generated by the daily grind of handling cases in your typical practice area.

3. I don’t even know where to begin the process of taking on a pro bono case.

The IndyBar receives more referrals for family law pro bono matters than it has volunteers to handle—you can email Caren Chopp at cchopp@indybar.org to request or discuss a potential referral. The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and the Heartland Pro Bono Council (www.nclegalclinic.org/Volunteer.aspx and www.heartlandprobono.org ) have a similar need.

We are excited that the IndyBar Ask A Lawyer event on April 8th provided a record number of 705 people with free legal advice, and we implore those individuals who selflessly donated their time to that and other similar events to consider taking a step forward in the continuum of pro bono service.•

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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