Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about doing Pro Bono work:
How can I find pro bono opportunities in my area?
You can find an opportunity near you by contacting Cynthia Mendenhall at 801-990-3942 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Soon, we will have opportunies searchable here on our website.
How do I sign-up to do pro bono?
I'm a busy person. Do I really have time to do pro bono?
Pro bono work does not have to be a burdensome time commitment. You can sign up to volunteer four times per year at a two hour clinic or volunteer to represent someone at a single hearing, like a Protective Order hearing. We do our best to accommodate willing volunteers' needs and time constraints.
What's in it for me?
You give back to your community. You provide assistance to someone who would otherwise be unable to proceed without your help. You make sure that all Utahns have access to our justice system. You also gain valuable experience in an area of law you might not otherwise know or develop a skill that will benefit you in your private practice.
What about malpractice issues?
Utah Legal Services provides all our volunteer attorneys with malpractice insurance, even at our clinics.
What resources will be available to me as a pro bono attorney?
Depending on your needs, Utah Legal Services can provide sample forms, resource guides like the Domestic Relations Manual, and attorneys to mentor you or be mentored by you. Our staff can assist with client meetings and research needs. We also cover any expenses or costs that can not be waived by the courts or paid by the client so volunteer attorney donate only their time.
Many lawyers do not have expertise in poverty law. Does that cause a problem?
No. Training/continuing legal education (CLE) seminars are generally available at least once a month at the Community Justice Center. We also have free training videos posted online, as well as, handbooks and manuals for specific areas of the law. In addition, many programs have mentors available to assist lawyers who are less experienced in dealing with poverty law issues.
Lots of informal pro bono takes place in my community. Why is organized pro bono so important?
Organized pro bono generally operates more effectively and efficiently for clients and participating lawyers, than does informal pro bono. Utah Legal Services insures the clients are low income and unable to pay for a private attorney. We also screen cases for merit and place only those cases with clients that we feel are easy to work with and counsel.
I'm active at church and/or with civic organizations, isn't that enough?
Community service of any type is laudable. But because attorneys have a monopoly on the provision of legal services, they are the only people in our society who can directly respond to the problem of unequal access to justice. Lawyers therefore have a professional obligation to help those individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance.
I do free legal work all the time when my clients fail to pay me, is this pro bono?
No. Pro bono means for the public good. A pro bono case is when you accept a case from a client who is unable to pay you and you take the case with the understanding that you will not be paid.
Can I still receive attorney fees if I take a pro bono case from Utah Legal Services?
Yes. If you accept a case from Utah Legal Services, and are able to either stipulate or be awarded attorneys fees from the opposing party, you may accept these fees and still be considered a Utah Legal Services pro bono case.
Does the Utah State Bar require Pro bono?
No. Rule 6.1 states that “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono public legal services per year. See the complete rule on the Utah Courts website here.