The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program joined the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to sponsor the third annual National Pro Bono Celebration Week October 23 - 29, 2011. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program sponsored a Bridge the Gap CLE pro bono training series, a Volunteer Awards Ceremony and Volunteer Opportunity Expo, and community legal clinics during the week in celebration of pro bono service.
National Pro Bono Celebration Week Volunteer Awards and Volunteer Opportunity Expo
In recognition of National Pro Bono Celebration Week, on November 1, 2011, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, along with the New York County Lawyers' Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York, held a pro bono awards reception and ceremony to honor outstanding dedicated volunteer attorneys for their pro bono service. It was hosted by the New York County Lawyers Association and attended by over 200 people. The program included remarks by Stewart D. Aaron, President, New York County Lawyers Association; Seymour James, President-elect, New York State Bar Association; David B. Goldin, Administrative Justice Coordinator, Office of the Mayor of the City of New York; and the Hon. Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts and Director, NYS Courts Access to Justice Program. One hundred and twenty-one volunteers were honored for their work in the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's Consumer Debt, Uncontested Divorce, Housing, Family Law, Guardian Ad Litem and DIY Form programs. All of the honorees performed over 50 hours of pro bono services in a court-based program throughout 2011. During this event, a Volunteer Opportunity Expo was held for attendees to learn about the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's volunteer programs. After the event, honorees were featured on the NYS Courts Access to Justice Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NYCourtsVLP.
Community Free Legal Clinics
As part of Pro Bono Celebration Week, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program partnered with the Interfaith Center of New York and the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) to "bring the courts to the community" by providing free legal assistance in a different county in New York City each day of the week between October 24 - 28, 2011. Temporary spaces were created where community members were able to receive free private legal consultations with volunteer lawyers and procedural and legal information from court Clerks, on custody and visitation, child support, domestic violence, consumer debt, small claims, housing, divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy and immigration law topics. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's free DIY Form programs were also showcased at the clinics. Over the course of the week, 246 people were assisted by the free legal clinics.
Bridge the Gap Training Series
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program offered its first free Bridge the Gap CLE training during Pro Bono Celebration Week to encourage and facilitate pro bono service by recent law graduates and newly admitted attorneys. The program was offered in return for pro bono service in the NYS Courts Access to Justice Programs. Attorneys were trained to provide free legal advice and limited representation to unrepresented litigants in New York City's Civil and Supreme Courts. Recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys were able to fulfill their first or second year mandatory CLE requirements through participation in this new program. From October 24 - 27, 2011, training was conducted in ethics, uncontested divorce, housing and consumer debt. The training was a huge success. Over 150 recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative.