"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."--Henry Ford
As Florida's legal leaders look to identify strategies to close the access-to-justice gap, an important part of the answer lies in the ability of Florida's law-firm community to take a central role in developing and sustaining pro bono partnerships that support the vital work of legal services providers.
Answering the Call After a Major Disaster
When disaster strikes, the need for legal assistance spikes. As floodwaters recede and first responders focus on stabilizing communities, disaster survivors turn their attention to rebuilding. Legal services are an integral part of this process--and while legal aid programs lead the charge in meeting the needs of low-income disaster survivors, pro bono providers play an important collaborative role.
As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida in September 2017, the disaster relief network began activating. Although it had been 12 years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane came ashore in Florida, Irma threatened the coastlines only two weeks after Hurricane Harvey roared onshore in Texas. As a result, pro bono leaders were at the ready to jump into action.
Beginning in the days leading up to Irma's landfall and continuing still today, law firms have worked closely with legal services programs, The Florida Bar, The Florida Bar Foundation, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, and others to identify opportunities for impactful pro bono contributions and to assist in recruiting and training volunteers.
Law firms also quickly collaborated to organize fail-safe operations with two centralized points-of-contact for pro bono outreach. One firm's pro bono counsel served as the in-state "boots on the ground" network contact, and another firm leader stepped in from the safety of an unaffected city --ensuring that a pro bono response could be triggered even if local organizers were impacted by the storm.
As our nation grapples with a number of intense natural disasters--from floods to fires and blizzards to heat waves--Florida legal services and pro bono leaders are continuing to collaborate, working with networks across the country to develop and institutionalize best practices for disaster legal response systems.
Capitalizing on Corporate Relationships
As legal services programs continue growing their networks of pro bono volunteers, private practitioners and firms can play a key role in bringing new lawyers to...