Pro Bono Legal Services Committee Busy Promoting Pro Bono Opportunities – The Florida Bar

The Pro Bono Legal Services Committee is busy promoting pro bono opportunities

With the launch of a major video campaign and the attention of the incoming President of the Law Society, the Pro Bono Legal Services Committee is set to enjoy much greater visibility.

Moments after the committee convened for the winter meeting on Jan. 28, President-elect Gary Lesser told the panel he intended to heavily promote its work when he takes office in June.

It will encourage pro bono service and remind the public of the thousands of hours of community service lawyers give each year, Lesser said.

“I look forward to working closely with this group during my year,” he said. “When you see the incredible work being done, it’s inspiring.”

Moments later, the committee viewed one of three “One Promise” videos it sponsored in conjunction with the Florida Bar Foundation.

The campaign asks lawyers to “pledge now to make a pledge – the promise of a gift of your time that will benefit a Floridian in need.”

The three videos target general attorneys, young attorneys, and senior attorneys respectively, and feature testimony from some of the most prominent members of the Bar.

“We don’t want ‘equal justice for all’ to be a slogan, we want it to be a reality,” former Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince said in a segment.

“Some of them literally traveled hundreds of miles at their own expense to witness the filming,” Foundation executive director Donny MacKenzie told the committee.

The Emmy-winning Zachary Group of Tallahassee donated its professional services to produce the video, and a dozen entities, including bar sections and volunteer bar associations, raised $37,000 for cover “hard” production costs, MacKenzie said.

The campaign is a rehash of a 2009 “One Promise” campaign that was ultimately credited with a 14% increase in pro bono service hours, co-chair Kathleen McLeroy said.

“Hopefully we can move the needle the same way we did in 2009,” McLeroy said.

U.S. District Judge Catherine McEwen, who also serves as co-chair, said reviving the campaign was one of her main goals when she joined the committee.

“It’s a touchdown, it’s here,” Judge McEwen said. “I appreciate the good work of Donny leading this.”

MacKenzie said the videos will be released widely across the state.

The Foundation also launched the Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge on Jan. 31, 2022, which matches law students with attorneys to partner in pro bono cases with legal aid organizations, MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie recently told the Board of Governors that within the first four hours of an announcement, 96 law students from 10 different law schools signed up. The Foundation hopes to place lawyers and law students with 350 cases, he said.

The committee spent much of the meeting discussing strategies for promoting campaigns, through websites, social media, and possibly incentives for lawyers and firms.

Committee member Giselle Gutierrez, who also sits on the YLD board of governors, said she would ensure the videos were promoted at the upcoming YLD affiliate outreach conference.

Committee member Angela Vigil suggested allowing law firms that agree to show the video to their members to list their names on the Florida Bar Foundation website.

“What we do is appeal to people’s honor,” Vigil said.

In other cases, the committee learned that one of the projects it oversees, “Florida Free Legal Answers,” is about to celebrate a milestone.

The program allows lawyers to connect to a website and provide free, anonymous legal advice to indigent clients. Florida generally leads the nation in turnout.

The program has grown to 999 volunteer lawyers, said Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer, associate director of the Law Society’s Programs Division.

“I want to thank Samantha Howell, you were volunteer #999,” Digon-Greer told the committee. “I just need one more person.”

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