Our Serving Profession
ABA Addresses the Nation’s Legal Needs Through Public Information and Volunteers
Posted Dec 25, 2006 2:37 AM CST
By Karen J. Mathis
During this season of giving, we have an opportunity to reflect upon the many services that lawyers provide in furthering good.
The American Bar Association—through countless public service programs and initiatives—provides diverse opportunities for lawyers to give back to their communities.
The ABA Division for Public Education is a home for many of these efforts. As a national resource for helping Americans understand the law and facilitating lawyers’ efforts to do so, the division offers a wealth of services and products. For example, the division recently published the ABA Legal Guide for Americans Over 50, an indispensable reference for adults and their parents.
Another one of the division’s popular publications is YourLaw Client Newsletter, which helps lawyers to better equip clients with information to identify and deal with legal issues before they become serious problems. Law firms subscribe to this quarterly, which reaches more than 100,000 clients each issue. Hot topics such as identity theft, living wills, Medicare Part D, and home construction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have filled its pages.
The ABA Young Lawyers Division’s latest public service project encourages high school students of color to pursue legal careers. Choose Law: A Profession for All uses a variety of youth-oriented media and volunteer lawyers to educate high school students on the importance of law in all aspects of their lives and how they can join the profession.
The ABA Section of Litigation launched the Litigation Assistance Partnership Project in 1989 to serve as a conduit between law firms’ pro bono resources and the needs of legal service and public interest programs. Over the years, LAPP firms have volunteered thousands of hours and millions of dollars worth of pro bono services to low-income clients and communities across the country. Their work has yielded incalculable positive outcomes for the legally underserved segments of our society. Earlier this year, LAPP helped safeguard the rights of more than 100 residents in a low-income senior housing complex in Southern California.
The new ABA Special Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness is making a positive difference in the Gulf Coast area, where residents continue to struggle with the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The committee is working with bar associations, legal services providers and others nationwide to identify the best models for public education efforts and disaster planning for the legal profession and the courts.
Public service is often a collaborative effort among ABA groups. The Commission on Domestic Violence has worked closely with the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division and the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section to disseminate its screening tool on domestic violence. A lawyer can consult this document for helpful information toward effectively determining if a client is a survivor of domestic violence and then tailor his or her representation accordingly. Working together, ABA entities increase access to legal services for victims of domestic violence—recognizing that such access plays an essential role in ending domestic violence in our communities.
For years, such ABA programs have highlighted the work of thousands of lawyers who give of themselves in order to serve others. For other ideas on how you can volunteer to serve, visit member services at www.abanet.org/members and click on the “Opportunities to Serve Others” link.
As we plan our calendars for the next year, let us all resolve to redouble our commitment to servicing the public, and thereby fulfill the reason that many of us entered the profession. I wish you a safe, loving, happy and productive holiday season and new year.
The fourth in a series of columns that discuss aspects of the profession: how it serves our nation and the law.