President’s Message – Oct./Nov. 2018

PCBA President David Nelmark

It’s National Pro Bono Month!

The American Bar Association has designated October to recognize attorneys who set aside time to assist those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. There is no better time to take on a pro bono case, and the Polk County Bar Association can be a great help in that effort.

For more than 35 years, the PCBA has worked hard to increase local access to justice. This past year, more than 300 attorneys provided legal assistance to low-income members of our community. Collectively, they provided nearly 4300 volunteer hours. At a rate of $200 per hour this would be $860,000 in billable time donated by these generous attorneys.

The aspirational goal of at least 50 hours of pro bono service is outlined in Iowa Rule of Professional Conduct 32:6:1. Click here for the 2017-18 Honor Roll of all attorneys who closed cases in the last fiscal year, with the names of those who met the 50-hour goal in bold print.

If you were part of the above efforts, thank you! If you have not yet been involved, please consider contacting the PCBA Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) to assist in the future. Just email or call her at (515) 243-3904.

Approximately one-third of the VLP’s clients are referred to the program following intake at Iowa Legal Aid. The VLP also works closely with the Drake Legal Clinic and many social service agencies.

Approximately 60 percent of the clients served by the VLP are assisted with family law matters. The number of pro se litigants continues to grow creating ever increasing demands on the judges serving on the Family Law rotation. Thus, the services provided by VLP attorneys not only assist clients but are of great value to the Court.

If your practice does not include family law, do not let that stop you from helping out. The VLP offers workshops and mentoring that will enable any attorney to take on a basic family law matter. There are also plenty of non-family law matters where clients need assistance.

In addition to working on cases directly, there are two other great ways to support the VLP. First, consider a monetary donation that can help cover the cost of program staff as well as litigation expenses for case (so that the attorneys who donate time don’t have to spend out of pocket as well). Click here to download the donation form. Second, if you are in a firm, support newer attorneys by assigning them a pro bono case as part of their billable hour requirement. With so many civil cases settling these days, a pro bono matter can be a great way to get courtroom experience while also serving the community.

Click here for the current “Wish List” of cases that need to be matched with volunteers. Please take a moment to review this and pledge to make a difference in someone’s life.