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pro bono service

SBM's Sixth Annual Spring Pro Bono Workshop Hits the Mark

Spring was in the air at the State Bar of Michigan's annual Spring Pro Bono Workshop, held last month in Lansing. The sixth annual workshop, sponsored by the State Bar's Pro Bono Initiative, was again a major success as pro bono leaders from around the state gathered to discuss the growing need for pro bono attorneys, and address the justice gap and unmet legal needs of the state's low-income citizens. Currently, there is only one legal aid attorney for every 21,000 qualifying persons, compared with one attorney for every 300 people in the general population.

After an introduction by SBM President-Elect Thomas Rombach, participants were given an update on pro bono at the state and national level. Bob Gillett (Legal Services of South Central Michigan) gave an update on pro bono in Michigan and ongoing national public opinion research on legal aid. Linda Rexer (Michigan State Bar Foundation) provided an update on fundraising and pro bono in Michigan, and a brief update on the assessment of pro bono in Michigan.

The first of two morning breakout sessions covered recruitment, motivation, and recognition of pro bono attorneys. The panel discussion was moderated by Amy Sankaran (University of Michigan Law School), and included Dustie Deville (Community Legal Services of Western Michigan), Marilyn Hackett (Legal Services of Eastern Michigan), and Peggy Costello (University of Detroit Mercy School of Law).

The second breakout session focused on training and support for pro bono attorneys. The panel was moderated by Robert Mathis (State Bar of Michigan), and included Michele Halloran (MSU College of Law), Abigail Jennex (Lakeshore Legal Aid/HAVEN) and Lynda Krupp (Legal Aid and Defender Association).

A networking lunch followed, and participants were encouraged to talk about a wide range of topics from Pro Bono Month, to national pro bono developments, to law school pro bono.

After lunch, there were two additional breakout sessions.  The first session discussed assessment of client outcomes and program results to increase pro bono services and fundraising. The panel was led by Linda Rexer and included Jennifer Bentley (LSSCM), Mark Fancher (American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan), Thom Linn (Miller Canfield), and Angela Tripp (Michigan Poverty Law Program).

The second session focused on advance planning and partnering for Pro Bono Month 2014. The panel was led by Justin Sheehan (Michigan Community Resources) and included Joan Glanton Howard (LADA), Heidi Naasko (Dykema), Kimberly Paulson (Bodman), and Karen Rowlader (Thomas M. Cooley Law School).

The participants then reassembled for a discussion on utilizing social media to manage an effective pro bono program. This session was led by Keith Morris and Annalise Stromsta (Elder Law of Michigan), along with Samantha Meinke (SBM).

The workshop concluded with a question-and-answer session on a variety of topics related to pro bono in Michigan. The panel, moderated by Joy Fossel (Varnum), included Justin Sheehan (Michigan Community Resources), Michael Bryce (UDM), Bob Gillett (LSSCM), and Cynthia Ward (Cooley).

Once again, the Spring Pro Bono Workshop provided an excellent venue for coordination and collaboration between legal and community service providers, law schools, pro bono attorneys, bar associations, and other organizations to discuss the growing and unmet legal needs of low-income persons in Michigan.

—Benjamin Ensroth

Do you have a Pro Bono or Community Service story to share?
it today to be included in our "A Lawyer Helps" story bank.

Nathan Dupes

Rhadika Sarkar



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