Posted in: Lawyers › None, Pro Bono
We know your time is valuable. That’s why the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program is pleased to now offer attorneys the ability to go to one easy-to-use webpage and view available pro bono cases across the state.
The Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project is a partnership between the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program and certain legal aid providers around the state, including South Carolina Legal Services, Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services, Root & Rebound SC, and the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition.
“Cases are available across the state and in a variety of practice areas,” says Betsy Goodale, director of the SC Bar Pro Bono Program. “Attorneys can search by county, subject matter/legal problem type, or organization. They can also set preferences and receive an email when cases meeting those preferences become available. Our goal with the Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project is offer yet another option for Palmetto State attorneys in fulfilling their professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services.”
Pick a card, any card
The Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project webpage features "cards" that offer information about available pro bono cases. Each card provides a brief description of the client's need, the name of the organization seeking assistance for the client, and the county in which assistance is needed. The clients have been vetted by the posting organization to ensure they meet the organization's requirements for pro bono assistance. For instance, in cases posted by the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program, or by the Pro Bono Program on behalf of South Carolina Legal Services, it has been determined that the client's household income is at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines and that the type of legal issue is one that South Carolina Legal Services does not handle and is one for which the Pro Bono Program typically seeks a pro bono attorney.
No long-term commitment, just interest
There is no need for attorneys to register as a volunteer with the Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project. Instead, if an attorney is interested in a case, they simply click "Interested" on the card and provide their name, email address, telephone number, and Bar number. By expressing interest, the attorney is not committing to accept the case. Instead, the organization that posted the case will send an email with additional information about the case so that the attorney can check for conflicts and make a final determination whether they wish to accept the case. If the attorney determines, after receiving the additional information, that the case is more than they can take on, that there is a conflict, or that they cannot take the case for any other reason, the attorney can simply let the posting organization know.
If the attorney decides after receiving the additional information that they do want to accept the case, the posting organization will provide additional documentation and information regarding the case, as well as other assistance.
Resources for you
The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program provides a variety of assistance to help attorneys with cases. This includes:
- Malpractice insurance coverage for cases accepted through its program, as well as cases accepted through other organizations as long as the attorney notifies the South Carolina Bar that they have accepted the pro bono case.
- Reimbursement for certain costs incurred in a pro bono case, such as filing fees (if a waiver cannot be obtained pursuant to Rule 3(b)(2), SCRCP), service of process, and retention of a translator.
- Assistance in finding a pro bono guardian ad litem, mediator, or mentor. In addition, both the University of South Carolina School of Law Pro Bono Program and the Charleston School of Law have students available to assist attorneys who take a pro bono case.
The Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project also provides an opportunity for attorneys across the state to learn about some of the state's legal aid organizations that are in need of pro bono volunteers to assist the organizations' clients with legal matters. Some of these organizations serve specific areas of the state, such as the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, while others are statewide. They also serve different needs. For instance, Root & Rebound advocates for people with criminal records across the state.
“We hope to expand the number and types of legal aid organizations that post available pro bono cases on the PVLP,” Goodale says.
The available cases will also be embedded on other relevant websites attorneys may visit, including local bar websites, legal aid organization websites, and Bar section webpages. For instance, when an attorney visits the Bar's Family Law Section online, they will see family law cases from the Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project.
The Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project is just the latest effort by the Bar's Pro Bono Program to provide attorneys with a variety of options when it comes to fulfilling the responsibility, set forth in Rule 6.1 of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, to provide pro bono legal service.