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Public Interest Law Section to talk ‘low bono’

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Public Interest Law Section to talk ‘low bono’

When the Public Interest Law Section meets at The Florida Bar’s Annual Convention on June 17, a special program will feature an idea for bridging the justice gap: “low bono” legal services provided by nonprofits for low fees.

Incoming Chair Sarah Sullivan, a professor of professional skills at Florida Coastal School of Law, and Jeffrey Fromknecht, managing partner of Side Project Inc., in Boynton Beach, will present their possible solution to the crisis that keeps many indigent, working poor, and middle-class Floridians from receiving the help they need with their civil legal problems.

Here’s how Sullivan describes their idea:

“Jeffrey and I have been working on a solution to bridging the justice gap. Many of our members run legal clinics at law schools, nonprofits, and work within the traditional legal services communities, but we are all unified by the one goal of serving the underserved.

“Though our section size may be small, our purpose and passion for justice is great. We are proposing that there be changes made to current rules or an ethics opinion rendered allowing for nonprofits to provide legal services for a low fee to the working poor,” Sullivan said.

“The proposal would include income guidelines to target those individuals that fall within the 80 percent of people accessing our judicial system without lawyers who don’t qualify for legal aid.

“The proposal is not only good for our most vulnerable citizens, but also for the legal profession. As young lawyers graduate from law school without employment prospects, this proposal would enable nonprofits to hire more lawyers, or young lawyers to even feed their passion for justice by creating their own nonprofits to serve special populations such as immigrants, rural communities, or other underserved individuals. We look forward to sharing more of our proposal with the other sections of the Bar at the Annual Convention.”

The special PILS program will provide an overview of what is “low bono legal aid” and why it’s needed; potential roadblocks for legal aid organization including Florida Rules of Professional Conduct and Ethics Advisory Opinions; and proposed solutions that involve rule changes and an opinion from the Board of Governors.

The PILS meeting takes place on Friday, June 17, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Taylor Room at the Bar’s Annual Convention at Hilton Bonnet Creek, Orlando.