ABA calls on volunteers to help with ProBAR video project
Do you want to assist the ABA with its efforts on the border without leaving your home or traveling across the country?
The ABA Section of Litigation’s Pro Bono Task Force is offering members a new opportunity to record short, 5- to 10-minute videos to help attorneys at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen, Texas, improve their litigation skills. The videos can be recorded on Zoom and cover general litigation tips, such as written or oral advocacy, as well as writ practice and criminal practice.
ABA President Patricia Lee Refo says the idea for the project was inspired by her own trip to the border in August 2019. In spending time with ProBAR’s attorneys, she and then-ABA President Judy Perry Martinez heard about the challenges associated with their work with adults and unaccompanied children in immigration detention and wanted to do more to support them.
“There are emotional challenges, but there are also professional challenges,” Refo says. “They were talking about, for example, how they’d like to learn more about general advocacy skills. Like all lawyers, they want to learn to be better lawyers.
“As the former chair of the Section of Litigation, I came back and asked for a meeting with some of the leaders and said, ‘Can’t we help here?’”
Thomas Gilson, the co-chair of the section’s Pro Bono Task Force, has since been working to recruit volunteers from the ABA. He says they don’t have to have experience with immigration and can focus their videos on topics provided by ProBAR or propose other ideas.
“We are really trying to help improve the quality of their representation and also help their clients in an indirect way,” says Gilson, a member of Beus Gilbert McGroder in Phoenix. “We all agree that its God’s work that they’re doing down there, and they face a lot of adversity.
“We’re happy to do whatever we can to connect them with the resources of the Section of Litigation. That’s really been our mission on this task force.”
Tiffany Graves, the other co-chair of the Pro Bono Task Force and a 2019 ABA Journal Legal Rebel, and Gilson have made videos for the project. She says she was attracted to the opportunity because it’s along the lines of the work that she does daily as pro bono counsel at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in its Charlotte, North Carolina, office.
“That is, trying to get people to volunteer to support the work of a nonprofit organization, in this case ProBAR,” Graves says. “As Tom said, what’s so interesting about this is our volunteers for the most part are not immigration attorneys. We are looking for litigators who can provide practice pointers, tips, strategies to really help these ProBAR attorneys, many of whom are new to the practice.”
Hector Steele, ProBAR’s supervising attorney, says feedback on the project has been positive, with one attorney telling him that the videos were exactly what he needed.
“These videos not only help our attorneys become more efficient and skilled litigators but also help them stay sharp, especially since immigration court dates have been delayed,” Steele says. “Watching these videos reminds attorneys of the challenges they face in court. It also helps them envision the amount of preparation needed for any litigation and how prepared they must be.”
In addition to providing videos, the Pro Bono Task Force plans to recruit volunteers to present webinars to ProBAR attorneys or be mentors to assist them with individual projects in the future.
For more information or to get involved, visit the Pro Bono Task Force website.
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