Posted in: Lawyers › None, Pro Bono
Below is an excerpt from a column written by SC Bar Pro Bono Board Chair Jennifer Peck Woodruff and Vice Chair Brett Lamb Stevens. The entire article will be in the November SC Lawyer magazine.
“..I will assist the defenseless and oppressed by ensuring that justice is available to all citizens..”
~ South Carolina Lawyer’s Oath
When we entered law school, most of us wanted to use our law degree in some way to further justice in our communities, help others and promote social good. After graduation, and as our careers began to evolve, we held on to those values, but our time became more limited and the demands of being a lawyer settled in.
Being a lawyer is hard work and often stretches us so thin that finding time for public service is something easily put off in the face of the numerous other obligations. But now, more than ever, our communities need lawyers to provide legal representation to those who cannot afford it, and to rise to the commitment of offering equal representation to all.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolinians who never expected to have to ask for help found themselves in the position where they need legal assistance but can only afford to pay a fraction of the cost or cannot pay for legal services at all. Before the pandemic, the Palmetto State was home to the nation’s highest rates of eviction filings, and those numbers are anticipated to increase. The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program, SC Legal Services and community partners have established a COVID-19 hotline and helped hundreds of South Carolinians in need, but calls continue.
During Celebrate Pro Bono Week, October 26-30, 2020, we recognize and applauded the countless hours of pro bono work performed by lawyers each year. In this month and throughout the year, we also encourage our fellow South Carolina lawyers to recognize the privilege and honor of being a lawyer and the professional obligation we all have to engage in public service.
Every lawyer remembers the first year of law school. There were the academic demands, an overwhelming abundance of new information, legal vocabulary, countless hours spent learning how to apply the law and learning how to balance all those challenges with everyday life. Even after law school, the learning never stops because as practitioners of the law, it is our professional obligation to navigate legal principles in the judicial system.
Now, imagine someone with much less education, or no education at all, who grew up with limited or no resources, and is now facing some sort of challenge that requires navigating through the legal system. This is where the recognition of your privilege to practice law is critical.
Lawyers are given a license to provide advice and representation to others based on the ability to effectively problem solve, comprehend and apply intricate laws and legal principles, and communicate for and advocate on behalf of others. This privilege can and should be used to benefit justice, provide equal representation, and promote social good.
The opportunities for attorneys to serve in a pro bono capacity in South Carolina are endless. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times brought about by COVID-19, the need for volunteer attorneys continues to escalate. Ways you can become immediately involved include:
- Sign up for one of the SC Bar’s Pro Bono opportunities;
- Sign up to answer questions on SC Free Legal Answers;
- Reach out to a local non-profit organization and inquire about opportunities to provide volunteer legal assistance;
- Make a monetary donation to a non-profit organization to help further their availability to offer legal resources.
Thank you to all South Carolina lawyers who have provided pro bono representation, assisted in the SC Bar Pro Bono Program, and/or supported pro bono efforts. Your work has positively impacted lives, and in the legal profession, there is no greater responsibility than a lawyer’s ability to positively influence and change a person’s life, and there is no greater reward than knowing that you have done so.