ABA encourages attorneys to commit to pro bono work

The nation faces an extraordinary need for legal assistance on multiple fronts, the American Bar Association has noted, from the eviction crisis arising from the pandemic, to assistance for refugees from Afghanistan and Haiti as well as other areas, to the legal issues arising from weather-related disasters.

For the rest of the year, the ABA is urging attorneys to commit to 10 hours of pro bono — or just under a quarter of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct aspirational goal of 50 hours annually per lawyer. Legal assistance at the right time can keep families in their homes, prevent a small business from closing, and offer refuge to those in need.

For those who aren’t sure where to turn to volunteer, the ABA suggests the following opportunities:

• ABA Free Legal Answers (www.abafreelegalanswers.org) is an on-line virtual legal clinic through which income-eligible clients can post civil legal questions to be answered by pro bono attorneys from their jurisdiction.

• Evictions threaten the safety of renters and the livelihoods of landlords. A letter from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (www.justice.gov/ag/page/file/1428626/download) to the legal community provides specific steps for lawyers to volunteer. With the threat of eviction moratoriums expiring, ABA President Reginald Turner has issued a call to lawyers to respond.

• The ABA Pro Bono Disaster Relief Portal (https://aba.joinpaladin.com/aba-disaster-relief) is a free, centralized, sortable database that lists opportunities to serve those impacted by natural disasters, including COVID-19.

• The ABA Afghanistan Response Project website (www.americanbar.org/advocacy/rule_of_law/afghanistan-response) is a central source of information and opportunities for lawyers to get involved in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that has spurred a demand for pro bono legal assistance and other forms of support that lawyers can provide.

• The ABA Commission on Immigration is currently seeking volunteers to help Haitian migrants apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a temporary immigration status provided to nationals of specifically designated countries confronting a problem that makes it difficult or unsafe for their nationals to be deported there. The clinic is held via Zoom, with shifts on Thursday afternoons, Fridays, and Saturdays. Volunteer attorneys will be paired with a client and interpreter to help the client complete the TPS application.

• Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation (https://cilacademy.org/pro-bono/pro-bono-matters) offers pro bono opportunities nationwide to support children facing deportation, allowing lawyers to search and share available pro bono cases for unaccompanied children (UC) detained by the federal government or released to live with family members while in deportation proceedings.

• The Commission on Immigration provides many opportunities to have an impact through pro bono service at www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/immigration/pro-bono-at-the-commission-on-immigration/pro-bono-opportunities.

• The ABA Military Pro Bono Project (www.militaryprobono.org) accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel facing civil legal issues and works to place these cases with pro bono attorneys.

• The ABA Death Penalty Representation Project’s (www.americanbar.org/groups/committees/death_penalty_representation/get_involved/volunteering) greatest need is for attorneys who can represent a prisoner in his or her state post-conviction proceedings. The project occasionally has smaller, discrete matters such as amicus briefs, petitions for certiorari, and research projects that are better suited for one or two attorneys.

• The National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide (www.probono.net/oppsguide) will assist attorneys in identifying organizations near them that could use pro bono volunteers in civil legal assistance.