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Lawyer commits to pro bono

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The aspirational pro bono goal for attorneys, set by the American Bar Association and endorsed – but not forced – by many states, is around 50 hours. Some Indiana attorneys work this into their annual budget by working with pro bono district plan administrators to accept cases when need exists and when they can easily fit them into their work schedules.

A Carmel solo attorney has pledged to do 150 hours of pro bono and modest means casework to be assigned from the Heartland Pro Bono Council, which covers Marion and neighboring counties.
 

Clar_Wendy-15col Wendy Clar (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

In January, Wendy Clar submitted 36 hours of pro bono and modest means cases, and in mid-February she said she’ll likely exceed her arbitrary goal and will keep taking cases as they are assigned.

Clar’s story is somewhat different from most attorneys who take on pro bono cases. Instead of fitting it into her schedule or taking a case from time to time, she plans to transition her practice to be mostly pro bono and modest means cases. She also hopes to offer legal services through her practice at a low rate to those who don’t meet the income qualifications for pro bono or modest means.
 

boyd-laurie Boyd

Clar first got involved with Heartland Pro Bono Council in 2007 when she called plan administrator Laurie Boyd after learning about the organization through the Hamilton County Bar Association, one of the many ways Boyd and other plan administrators reach out to attorneys. Boyd said nothing makes her day more than a call from an attorney asking how she can take a case.

In October 2010, Clar received a Pro Bono Publico Award at the Randall T. Shepard dinner honoring pro bono service in Indiana. Boyd nominated Clar because she completed 10 cases received from the Heartland Pro Bono Council in 2009. In 2010, Clar accepted 16 modest means cases and five pro bono cases.

Doing pro bono comes naturally to Clar. She received her master’s degree in social work from Syracuse University in 1988 and was a social worker for six years before she attended Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif., from 1995 to 1998. As a social worker in Rochester, N.Y., she worked with maltreated children and poor families.

After law school she worked as a part-time district attorney and a law guardian in Rochester, N.Y., and for a small firm in Newark, N.Y. She moved to the Indianapolis area after her husband accepted a job with the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2005.

Clar was admitted to practice in Indiana in 2006. In her solo practice she handles all aspects of Indiana family law including child custody, child support, divorce, emancipation, enforcement proceedings, guardianships, legal separations, modification proceedings, parenting time, paternity, post dissolution proceedings, prenuptial agreements, protective orders, and spousal support.

For Heartland Pro Bono Council, she has taken on a variety of cases and told Boyd to send her whatever she thinks Clar can handle. Boyd said she has tried to send Clar a mix of cases in terms of issues and time commitment, and that Clar has turned down only one case due to a scheduling conflict. Boyd has also tried to send a few modest means cases to Clar so she’ll be paid at least something, she said.

Another attorney who made a pledge to pro bono is Erin L. Berger, a solo who has a general practice in Evansville. In 2006, she offered to take on at least one case a month from the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana, which serves 11 counties in that part of the state. She succeeded.

Berger worked for Indiana Legal Services in Evansville as an intern when she was in law school and said she always had an appreciation for civil legal aid and pro bono work. By helping with ILS intake, she realized how many people needed legal help but couldn’t afford it or didn’t qualify for ILS assistance. As a part-time public defender on cases that deal with children in need of services in Vanderburgh County, she sees the need for legal aid there as well.

Berger said she has continued to take as many pro bono cases each year as she can. In her district, she said, the plan administrators send a monthly newsletter that describes cases that need an attorney. Many times, she said, she’ll see a case she can handle and will volunteer.

Berger said she tries to take on pro bono cases in juvenile court such as guardianships, step-parent adoptions, paternity cases, and custody cases because she’s often there anyway.

Districts are looking for more ways to recruit and retain volunteers. While many have events to appreciate attorneys who take on pro bono cases and some offer free or reduced-fee continuing legal education opportunities for attorneys who accept pro bono cases, districts are also asking members what they consider as incentives.

Diane Walker in District 10 performed a survey and learned that the top five motivators for those who responded were free CLEs, “discrete tasks that are time-limited,” “peer mentoring,” “giving me continuing legal education credit for doing a case,” and “legal forms done beforehand.”

The top reason for doing pro bono work, given by 83.3 percent of respondents, was “access to justice is important to me,” she said.

Both Clar and Berger said they didn’t volunteer to take cases to help their respective districts because of the budget cuts the districts endured for 2011, but both said they hoped more attorneys would consider volunteering their time.

“Even if an attorney can give an extra hour a month to a pro bono case, that’s still 12 hours a year. It really adds up,” Clar said. “The clients are so appreciative. That’s the rush I get from doing this.”


fennell-monica Fennell

Boyd added that there is a growing need, something that was echoed by Monica Fennell, executive director of the Indiana Pro Bono Commission.

“I think more lawyers are volunteering to help those in need because in this economy there are constant reminders that unemployment is high, foreclosures are not abating, and people are in crisis – and lawyers want to help,” Fennell said via e-mail. “They are finding that there are many ways to use their unique skills, whether it is handling an appeal or attending a settlement conference with a borrower in a foreclosure case or one of the many other pro bono cases. For new lawyers and law students, doing pro bono work is also a good way to get experience in a tough job market.”•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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