There is a common denominator for success in so many endeavors in life: connecting with people. For nearly a year now, the South Carolina State Bar has applied this concept to a program created to introduce underserved citizens to pro bono attorneys looking to serve them.
Offering statewide pro bono opportunities in numerous practice areas, the Palmetto Volunteer Lawyer Project is a partnership between several legal aid service providers, including South Carolina Legal Services, Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services, Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, and reentry organization Root & Rebound.
A user-friendly, online portal accessible through the bar’s website allows attorneys to find pro bono work by browsing “cards” that include a brief description of the client’s need, the name of the submitting agency, and the county.
When an attorney spots a potential opportunity, she clicks an “Interested?” button and submits her contact information and bar number. Pro Bono Program Director Betsy Goodale will then provide additional case details and the appropriate paperwork. If the lawyer remains interested no conflicts exist, the case will be assigned.
“Our goal … is to offer yet another option for Palmetto State attorneys in fulfilling their professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services,” Goodale said.
Those who find no suitable opportunities can opt to receive email notifications when cases in their desired areas are uploaded to the portal.
Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services was one of the first agencies to partner with the volunteer project as a means to handle a demand for legal services necessitates that requires “match-making” between clients and private attorneys, often accomplished through e-blasts, newsletters, cold calls, and personal relationships.
“It is pretty time-consuming and intensive, so this model allows us to … have everything kind of consolidated in one area,” Charleston Pro Bono Services director Alissa Lietzow said. “It really is a fantastic program.”
Available cases will also be featured on other relevant websites such as those of local bars and legal aid organizations. Goodale said that she hopes increased exposure will lead to more resources joining the effort.
“Some [lawyers] only read South Carolina Lawyer magazine or only do social media,” Goodale said. “We really try to put information on all platforms in hopes of catching them where they’re at. People don’t realize how many organizations need pro bono assistance for their clients.”