President’s message – December/January 2020

By the Numbers: Help Fill the Gap

PCBA President Donna Miller

Fifty-eight. The most recent “wish list” from the PCBA Volunteer Lawyers listed 58 people in need of legal services. While there are 27 people who need help with family and paternity matters (Nicole needs a divorce, Peter needs to disestablish paternity), 31 people need help with other matters (Frank has a landlord issue, Elizabeth needs a guardianship for her disabled daughter, Adrianne’s husband died and the house was in his name). The individuals and families on this list have diverse backgrounds and equally diverse legal needs. Whether your practice experience is in family law, wills/probate, bankruptcy, veteran’s benefits, landlord/tenant, or tort law, you can help.

Twenty-three. The wish list also recognizes the attorneys who each accepted one to three cases from the last wish list for a total of 23 clients who are receiving assistance. Thank you Katherine, Maria, Tyler, Nick, Danni, Bryn, Shanon, RJ, Steve, Jennifer, Alison, and Robert. There are approximately 1200 attorneys who have indicated a willingness to accept cases, but only 127 took cases through VLP last year.

Fifty. Our ethical rules provide an aspirational 50-hour pro bono goal. The hours we are strongly recommended to complete each year, but only a small percentage of us reach that goal.

One. We lost one of our strongest advocates for pro bono service and equal access to the legal system when Justice Cady died recently. In October, he issued his annual Statement Supporting Pro Bono Legal Services recognizing Iowa attorneys’ 43,348 hours of pro bono legal services provided to charitable organizations and the 89,484 hours of pro bono legal services provided to persons of limited means. Despite the impressive numbers, he recognized the “substantial gap between available legal services and the demand for such services.” He encouraged attorneys and judges to fill that gap.

Two. If you are not able to represent a VLP client, there are at least two other ways to help.   First, Participate and volunteer for VLP fundraisers. Whether by golfing or testing your trivia knowledge, we need you. If you cannot participate, consider volunteering; all the excitement without the pressure of being able to hit a golf ball or knowing the trivia answers. Second, consider an extra donation to help us keep the program running.

Incalculable. Our dedicated staff, with your help, provide hundreds of clients and families peace and resolution throughout the year. The benefit goes beyond the numbers.