To Give or Not to Give
By Kimberly Berman, Esq.
As 2020 draws to a close, now more than ever people are in need of pro bono legal services. Yet, recent studies show that fewer lawyers are taking on pro bono cases. The reasons for the downturn are many, but the Florida Bar’s Appellate Practice Section offers countless opportunities to give your time to help someone in need in a pending appeal or original proceeding. Taking on a pro bono appeal not only benefits the public, but it has many professional benefits as well. The Section’s online newsletter, The Record, will now be highlighting these benefits, and recognizing pro bono lawyers, for their hard work and many pro bono accomplishments.
The Section has a robust pro bono committee that is responsible for coordinating the Section’s efforts to provide pro bono services to those in need. The Section receives referrals from legal aid organizations around the state, the Guardian ad Litem Program, the Florida Supreme Court and some of Florida’s district courts of appeal, and from litigants directly. The committee then recruits volunteer lawyers to assist on the cases.
The Section’s volunteer lawyers have represented litigants in a variety of appeals and original proceedings arising from family law matters, foreclosure disputes, domestic violence proceedings, dependency cases, landlord-tenant matters, as well as other civil and small claims disputes. The Section has also collaborated with three pro bono programs that are continuously in need of volunteers.
The Section has an award-winning partnership with the Office of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program and its Defending Best Interests Project. The DBI Project is a first-of-its-kind initiative, which systematically uses pro bono legal services to represent children in Florida’s appellate courts. The Section also enjoys a partnership with the Veterans Consortium, a program where volunteers assist veterans in appealing the denial of benefits or compensation in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Finally, the Section’s newest partnership with Catholic Legal Services aims to pair volunteer lawyers with asylum seekers who wish to challenge immigration rulings before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
In addition to the Section’s partnerships, volunteer lawyers often find pro bono opportunities on their own. It makes no difference how Section lawyers find the cases—the key is that they are continually taking on pro bono appeals and making an impact across the State of Florida.
The Section is grateful for its volunteer attorneys. To show our appreciation, the Section is pleased to introduce a regular column in The Record to spotlight the accomplishments of our volunteer lawyers. If you have served as a volunteer lawyer for the Section’s pro bono committee (or are a member of the Section and took on a pro bono appeal on your own) and are interested in being spotlighted in The Record, please contact Kimberly Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org.