In observance of the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Celebration, taking place, this year, this week of October 23rd through the 29th, we will be doing our small part to support the movement by publishing two pro bono-related posts to the LOMAP Blog, the second of which appears below. For this post, we are indebted to its author, Alexis B. Kaplan, who practices estate planning at the Law Offices of Alexis B. Kaplan, LLC, is a member of the Boston Bar Association New Lawyers Section Pro Bono Subcommittee and is a panel attorney with the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Alexis, below, writes about the value of her experiences with the Volunteer Lawyers Project.
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This month, October, is pro bono month; it is also, coincidentally, the same month that a pro bono client of mine received a long-awaited divorce judgment. As a newly-minted attorney, I took on a divorce case at the beginning of this year with a friend of mine who was also new to the practice of law. I wanted to gain experience in family law practice, and the Boston Bar Association‘s Volunteer Lawyers Project (hereinafter “VLP”) offered just the opportunity that I was looking for, to take a case, and to have access to resources that I would not otherwise have been able to acquire. Most VLP clients do not have the money to afford legal counsel, which can hinder them from taking actions that involve the court system. Being able to provide legal services, and support, to someone in a situation where a divorce was long overdue, felt really good. Anytime I ran into questions as to the best procedure for moving my case forward, I was able to turn to the VLP staff attorneys, who are very helpful and knowledgeable. Representing low-income clients can present some twists and turns that many new lawyers are not used to (such as having a pro se party on the other side), and VLP resources are geared towards helping the novice lawyer with whatever novel issues arise. The support provided to me by VLP allowed me to represent my client effectively; and, ultimately, the result was that both parties to the action were able to move on with their lives.
How was it that I was able to take on a case in an area in which I had limited experience, with little trepidation? And, How can you do the same? Glad you asked . . .
VLP does a pre-screening of all of their cases, and gives volunteer attorneys the opportunity to choose one or more cases that they would like based on a synopsis. Included in the summary of the case is information as to whether it is at a ‘Beginner’ level, ‘Advanced’, ‘Difficult’, or something in between categories. I chose a ‘Beginner’ case for my first VLP divorce case, and I look forward to taking on a more difficult case in the future–one that will provide me with the opportunity to gain more advanced experience. Every case is different, as is every time commitment.
The trainings VLP provided were very helpful to me, and having the VLP staff attorneys available to answer questions once I took the case was invaluable. Between trainings and staff assistance, the resources offered are very useful, whether you are learning the ropes in a new practice area, or just looking to brush up on some skills.
Whether you’re interested in family law, guardianships, bankruptcy, debt collection or landlord/tenant issues, VLP offers free trainings and resources so that you can help clients in need of legal assistance. In addition, or in lieu of, taking cases through VLP, you can also devote just a few hours of time to one of their many clinics. Even if you’re waiting on bar results, or waiting to get sworn in to the bar, VLP has projects that you can take part in, to gain knowledge and experience, all while helping those in need of legal assistance. Devoting time to pro bono work is fulfilling–hopefully I’ll see you at the next VLP Guardianship Clinic!
For more information on becoming involved with VLP, visit: http://www.vlpnet.org/.
For more information on the New Lawyers Section Pro Bono Subcommittee: Contact Lucas Burke, subcommittee co-chair, by phone at (617) 455-7294, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.