Attention all out-of-state Florida Bar members: Remote pro bono opportunities are available
On March 13, 2020, the president of the United States issued a proclamation declaring a national emergency concerning the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Since then, our entire world has turned upside down.
In times of crisis, millions may be left without healthcare, employment, housing, and access to food. Others will be left in dangerous situations with their abusers or become victims of scams. As with a natural disaster, legal aid providers are an important part of a comprehensive and necessary response to a pandemic. Legal aid helps individuals navigate an already complex legal system by assisting with domestic abuse protective orders, fighting evictions and foreclosures, assisting with unemployment, and responding to scams.
Even during this difficult and unprecedented time, legal aid providers continue to serve clients and mobilize volunteers to provide pro bono legal assistance and representation to vulnerable individuals. While the need for assistance remains steady, it is anticipated that the health and economic ramifications will create a surge of new clients seeking legal assistance, including from those that would not have qualified for legal aid in the past. Pro bono assistance is essential to help legal aid organizations meet the increased need.
Traditionally, many Florida pro bono opportunities focused on the in-person delivery of legal services by attorneys located within the state. Due to current shelter-in-place orders and the ingenuity of legal aid organizations, many pro bono opportunities are now available in a remote capacity, which allows any Florida attorney, regardless of whether they are located in the state, to provide pro bono assistance during this unprecedented time. There are a variety of opportunities in different areas of law requiring different ranges of commitment. Now is the perfect time to help a Floridian from the comfort of your home.
LIST OF VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.
The Volunteer Lawyers Program of Bay Area Legal Services (BALS) offers several remote pro bono opportunities for Florida licensed attorneys residing outside of the state. BALS seeks volunteers in the following projects: Remote Telephone Intake Project, Pro Se Family Law Form Project, and Pro Se Domestic Violence Injunction Project. Volunteers with the Remote Telephone Intake Project provide advice to prescreened clients. The Pro Se Family Law Form Project allows volunteers to assist clients by filling out forms through a video conference or phone call. The Pro Se Domestic Violence Injunction Project allows volunteers to assist clients by filling out the Injunction for Protection forms remotely. For more information, contact Jena Hudson, Pro Bono Manager at [email protected].
Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc.
Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida offers Florida-licensed attorneys with the opportunity to volunteer remotely with their “Broward Lawyers Care” Pro Bono Telephone Advice and Counsel Hotline. Currently, the Advice and Counsel Hotline offers assistance to tenants with their housing-related legal problems. Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida holds the Advice and Counsel Hotline every Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. All attorney volunteers receive a reference manual, instructions, and client files before volunteering with the hotline. Remote training is also available to any new volunteers. For more information, contact Chanel A. Winter, Pro Bono Coordinator at [email protected].
Community Legal Services of Mid-Land Florida, Inc.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Land Florida offers two opportunities for Florida-licensed attorneys located out of the state: Remote Legal Advice Clinic and Checklist Drafting Project. The Remote Legal Advice Clinic offers brief service and limited scope assistance to clients. Attorneys assist with forms completion for self-represented litigants in their bankruptcy, family law, or employment matters. The Checklist Drafting Project provides attorneys with the opportunity to provide pro bono assistance without working with clients by drafting easy to referencing checklists for use by pro bono attorneys at Legal Advice Clinics. CLSMF provides training, materials, and mentorship to their volunteer attorneys. For more information, contact Martha Pardo, Pro Bono Director at [email protected].
Florida Bar/Young Lawyers Division (YLD)
The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division has started directing citizens to Florida’s ABA Free Legal Answers platform. SIGN UP HERE to volunteer to answer the questions of fellow citizens who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 on a pro bono basis. The Disaster Assistance Manual for Legal Services Advocates contains important legal issues that are implicated by COVID-19 and provides a great background on questions you may receive. For more information, contact Santo DiGangi at [email protected].
Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.
Florida Rural Legal Services’ Courthouse Clinics have gone virtual. They are now seeking volunteers to provide counsel and advice, and pro se assistance remotely in a variety of practice areas. FRLS also anticipates an onslaught of cases once the moratoriums are lifted and are seeking attorneys to assist with the increased need. FRLS provides CLE trainings to any attorney who signs up to provide legal help. Areas of particular concern include family, foreclosures and eviction, consumer matters, bankruptcy, and public assistance. For more information, contact Carolyn Fabrizio, Director of Private Attorney Involvement at [email protected].
Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.
Legal Services of Greater Miami offers four remote pro bono opportunities: Tenants’ Equal Justice Clinic, Consumer Equal Justice Clinic, Reemployment Assistance Clinic, and Nonprofits and COVID-19 Legal Assistance for Nonprofits and Small Businesses. The Remote COVID-19 Clinic offers legal assistance to nonprofits and small businesses, including but not limited to SBA Paycheck Protection Program eligibility and application assistance, loan closings related to the new SBA programs, and employment-specific questions related to the Families First and CARES Act Legislation. For more information, contact Jayme Cassidy, Pro Bono Advocacy Director at [email protected].
Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc.
Three Rivers Legal Services (TRLS) offers two remote opportunities for Florida-licensed attorneys: Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic and direct pro bono placement to assist clients with advanced directives. The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic assists individuals with reducing or eliminating past tax debts. For more information, contact Donna MacRae, Deputy Director at [email protected].
Anais M. Taboas is a member of The Florida Bar from Washington, D.C. and member of the Bar’s Out of State Division. She is program counsel for the Pro Bono Innovation Fund, Legal Services Corporation.