We help eligible low-income people and senior citizens
with civil legal problems.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pro Bono Celebration Week

This is National Pro Bono Celebration week and we're celebrating!

If you're a lawyer who participates in pro bono activites, thank you!
Check here to find a celebration near you:

In Tulsa, the Tulsa County Bar Association is Celebrating with a reception for all volunteer lawyers on Thursday, October 29th from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Contact the TCBA at 584-5243, ext 1223, for details.

In Oklahoma City, the OCU Law School is having a luncheon, Friday, October 30th, 11:30 to 1:00 p.m. to honor the Dean's Summer Fellowship recipients.

What are we celebrating? Glad you asked: It's Access to the Courts, Access to Justice or simply a level playing field. In criminal law matters, you have a 'right' to a lawyer if you can't afford one. In any civil law matter that doesn't involve loss of a liberty or 'right' you pay for your own legal representation. That sounds right, doesn't it? Sounds right, but practically it can be disastrous for families and community stability.

Consider a young mother with a severely ill child. The asthma symptoms the child suffers costs the mother time off from her job. Being an hourly employee, monthly income is lost for every doctor visit or severe bout with asthma. Prescriptions, doctor co-pays all add up. After 6 months of this, a monthly income that is sufficient to keep the family going dwindles. A few times behind in the rent and there is an eviction notice. Mother's doctor has asked about the family home environment. Does anyone smoke in the house, have precautions been taken to remove dust, mold, mildew?

As it turns out the mother has asked her landlord many times to repair a leak in the bathroom, a moldy wall from a long ago repaired room leak. A bit of ground work and testing... it's the mold. Can she pay for a lawyer to go to the eviction hearing with her? Can she pay a lawyer to even talk to the landlord on her behalf and explain the law and how it applies to her circumstances? Not if she can't pay the rent... and that's even if she can find a lawyer who would even help her.

She turns to community legal resources. Yes there are a few, but in the best of times free legal services are stretched thin. Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and many other civil legal providers to low-income Oklahomans work hard to help as many as possible. We're just not able to help everyone. To stretch our impact we turn to private lawyers to step in. Sometimes it's a small matter of information, advice or just giving some direction. Sometimes it's a big case and very time consuming. Either way it means the world to someone!

Thank you to the many, many lawyers who volunteer countless hours taken from private practice and family time, to work with those who can least afford the help. It's not glamorous work. But it's so fulfilling to just one person or family, to prevent homelessness, family violence or help someone get back to work with a reinstated driver’s license or just to provide information to someone who is unable to get it anywhere else.

Ask your lawyer how much pro bono work he or she does every year. You'll be surprised and we should all say THANKS!