2003 December, 5. Pro Bono or No Pro Bono What's the Difference.

AuthorBy Marilyn B. McNamara

New Hampshire Bar Journal


2003 December, 5.

Pro Bono or No Pro Bono What's the Difference

New Hampshire Bar JournalDecember 2003, Volume 44, Number 4Pro Bono or No Pro Bono What's the DifferenceBy Marilyn B. McNamaraI am well aware that most of the lawyers who open the cover of this edition of the Bar Journal have already demonstrated an interest in the Pro Bono Program. So, I'm preaching to the choir, yes, preaching. In fact, if you actually read the article on the 25th anniversary of the Pro Bono Program, you may skip the next sermon if you so desire.

My hope is, however, that someone will read this article who has never embarked on the Pro Bono journey and will be moved to try - just once. If one person picks up one case, my work here is worthwhile.

I was in Seattle recently. Two friends and I escaped from the conference hotel and went in search of a little restaurant we had noted from the previous afternoon. We were wandering a bit, it was dark, and one of the others led us into a nearby hotel to ask the concierge for directions. He was happy to give them to us, but then he asked, "You ladies aren't walking are you?"

"Oh, yes, we are," we said, with our Yankee sturdiness showing. Whereupon he advised us to go to the nice place right across the street. It seemed the area around our intended restaurant wasn't safe at night. Too many homeless people.

Seattle is a beautiful city, but it has too many homeless people. How did this happen? How did it happen in Washington, DC, or in New York or Boston or Manchester, New Hampshire? How have we learned to turn away from obvious need without so much as a flicker of guilt? How is it that we, the wealthiest nation in the world, have decided that a certain portion of our population is so unruly, so difficult, so undeserving that it is acceptable for them live in the rain and the cold and the danger of the streets?

I give money to street people. I don't do it all the time, and rarely if at all when I'm with other people. I know the reasons not to do it; that it will only encourage them, that they probably have more money than I do, that they'll just drink it or snort it or shoot it into their veins. But, when faced with a poor person on the street holding a little sign or holding out a cup, I often cave. I cannot distinguish the truly needy from the fraudulent so I choose...

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