Georgia Bar Journal August 2015 : Page 66

Pro Bono Eureka Moments know what makes these lawyers tick, so to speak, how these lawyers became engaged in pro bono and why they developed such a strong and lasting commitment to pro bono services. Mike Monahan, the director of our State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project, teamed up with me at the Bar’s Annual Meeting to host a CLE with the help of ICLE in Georgia. We titled the CLE program “Eureka Moments in Pro Bono.” By way of background, Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson has focused atten-tion on the lawyer’s duty to ensure access to justice. In his 2015 State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Thompson noted the uneven geographic disburse-ment of lawyers in Georgia and emphasized the importance of having a sufficient number of lawyers accessible to low and moderate-income Georgians. 66 Y by Avarita L. Hanson ou read about the Pro Bono All Stars in the June edition of the Bar Journal . From a professionalism standpoint, we wanted to The Chief Justice has spoken often about the need for ensuring affordable legal services and the greater provision of pro bono services. The courts are also Georgia Bar Journal

Eureka Moments

Avarita L. Hanson

You read about the Pro Bono All Stars in the June edition of the Bar Journal. From a professionalism standpoint, we wanted to know what makes these lawyers tick, so to speak, how these lawyers became engaged in pro bono and why they developed such a strong and lasting commitment to pro bono services. Mike Monahan, the director of our State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project, teamed up with me at the Bar’s Annual Meeting to host a CLE with the help of ICLE in Georgia. We titled the CLE program “Eureka Moments in Pro Bono.”

By way of background, Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson has focused attention on the lawyer’s duty to ensure access to justice. In his 2015 State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Thompson noted the uneven geographic disbursement of lawyers in Georgia and emphasized the importance of having a sufficient number of lawyers accessible to low and moderate-income Georgians. The Chief Justice has spoken often about the need for ensuring affordable legal services and the greater provision of pro bono services. The courts are also challenged by a great increase in pro se litigants who could be helped on a pro bono or low-bono basis, as well as the necessary provision of interpreters for pro bono and pro se litigants who do not speak English.

During her term at the helm of the State Bar of Georgia, Immediate Past President Patrise M. Perkins- Hooker, also emphasized the lawyer’s duty to ensure access to justice. She designed and advocated for a program to train and support a cadre of new attorneys who would represent not just poor, but lowincome clients in six rural counties in south Georgia where it was determined that few, if any, lawyers were available to provide legal assistance to a mostly rural and poor population.

Having heard the chief justice’s exhortations about access to justice and pro bono service, as well as Perkins-Hooker’s similar message to the profession, we set about to design a CLE program that we hoped would inspire and motivate lawyers, one that would let pro bono lawyers share their heartfelt story and lead others to a eureka moment.

First, we assembled a group of lawyers representing a range of pro bono services: Gail Scotton Baylor; Lawrence J. “Larry” Bracken II, Hunton & Williams LLP; Mawuli M. Davis, The Davis Bozeman Law Firm PC; Damon E. Elmore, Nowell Sparks LLC; Jay C. Fox; Philip “Phil” Holladay Jr., King & Spalding LLP; Shalamar Parham; and Michelle E. West, director, State Bar of Georgia Transition Into Law Practice Program and former solo practitioner. These lawyers served as our storytellers, sharing very touching and often emotional eureka moments arising from their pro bono experiences and defining the eureka moment in which they realized the power of their pro bono work. They related stories that were dynamic, enlightening and inspiring, quoting inspirational figures as varied as Jesus, Tupac and Biggie. The storytellers related pro bono outcomes like gaining a godson and life-changing activities such as starting career pro bono involvement in law school, handling international child abduction cases, witnessing executions and bicycling across the state to benefit Georgia Legal Services Program. Tears of joy and words of sincere appreciation demonstrated that attorneys committed to pro bono work often get unanticipated and immeasurable rewards that bear no relation to attorneys’ fees.

In the second part of the program, moderated by Chief Justice Thompson, Judge Denise Marshall of the Dougherty County Superior Court and Judge Marc E. D’Antonio of the Muscogee County Probate Court, spoke to specific measures courts and judges can take to support the pro bono work of the attorneys who come before them. The judges discussed promoting pro bono by giving pro bono calendar preference to pro bono cases, speaking to Bar members about the importance of pro bono and participating in programs that honor volunteer lawyers. The judges noted that pro bono service helps to increase the efficiency of the courts and increases the public’s confidence in the legal system.

Marshall and D’Antonio provided their perspectives on how judges can support pro bono work by being gracious and appreciative to the pro bono attorneys who litigate in their courtrooms. Judges can also encourage local bar members and associations to find innovative ways to meet the needs of unrepresented litigants.

In the final part of the program, a strong array of leaders of organizations that engage pro bono attorneys in their work discussed the nuts and bolts of pro bono attorney involvement—cases, control, time commitment, subject matter and the like. The panel included Douglas B. Ammar, executive director, Georgia Justice Project; Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper, Georgia Legal Services Program; Martin “Marty” Ellin, executive director, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation; and Tremaine “Teddy” Reese, director, Community Operations and Affairs, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. These program representatives shared their expertise and program information to encourage members of the audience to volunteer. Edmondson-Cooper shared valuable insights into how to use the services of certified foreign language interpreters and sign language experts for clients for whom English is not their first language or who are deaf or hard of hearing to ensure access to justice.

The CLE influenced conversations for the rest of the Annual Meeting weekend. Written materials provided by ICLE were scooped up by enthused participants. Much of the CLE program was videotaped and the volunteer stories will be posted online. Several attorneys expressed their desire to have their local and specialty bar associations across the state hold similar dialogues about doing pro bono work. Representatives of judicial associations also want their colleagues to hear more pro bono stories and about opportunities for judges to encourage, enable and support pro bono attorneys in their courts.

It is not so difficult to have a pro bono eureka moment! Attorneys who engage in pro bono work indeed find that they get as much out of it—maybe more—than their clients do. Many thanks to our CLE participants, ICLE staff, the staff of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism and, of course, the countless dedicated Georgia pro bono attorneys, judges and support staff members who help them in their work in ensuring access to justice.

Avarita L. Hanson is the executive director of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism and can be reached at ahanson@cjcpga.org.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/Eureka+Moments/2239200/268348/article.html.

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