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October 23, 2009

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION HELPS KICKOFF INAUGURAL NATIONAL PRO BONO WEEK

Week-long National Celebration Recognizes the Outstanding Contributions of Volunteer Attorneys and Encourages More Lawyers to Continue the Proud Tradition of Pro Bono Service

Noting their proud history and tradition of encouraging attorneys to do the public good, members of the New York State Bar Association today commenced the first ever National Pro Bono Week with a kickoff event at the Court of Appeals in Albany. The event is part of a week-long national celebration being held October 25-31 honoring attorneys for their commitment in volunteering to serve those in need. 

An initiative established by the American Bar Association (ABA), National Pro Bono Week aims to recognize the significant contributions made by the scores of attorneys who already participate in pro bono, to educate the public and the legal profession about the ever-growing unmet legal needs of low-income people and others who have been hard hit by the economic downturn, and to encourage more attorneys to volunteer.

"At times like these, many New Yorkers are facing significant economic hardships and cannot afford legal counsel," said State Bar President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). " I am very proud to be part of a profession where so many feel an obligation to step up and help those who, for instance, may be in danger of losing a home to foreclosure or who are at risk of losing vital government benefits. These volunteer attorneys represent the very best of the legal profession and I want to commend them for their service and for the good that they do in communities across the nation."

Attending the kickoff event were the Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York; State Bar President-Elect Stephen P. Younger (Paterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP); Hon. George H. Lowe (United States District Court for the Northern District of New York), State Bar President's Committee on Access to Justice Co-Chair; David P. Miranda, Albany County Bar Association President; and the Hon. Gerald Jennings, Mayor of Albany, among other judges and dignitaries. A recipient of pro bono legal services also spoke to the audience and relayed her personal story of what it meant to receive the services of a volunteer lawyer.

"Today, we as lawyers are reminded of our higher calling to ensure that everyone has access to justice," Younger told the audience. "Giving back to our communities by providing free legal services is the Good We Do. It is not just for one week, but all year long. Given the universal commitment of our profession to do pro bono, it is fitting that we set aside a week each year not only to celebrate and honor the Good that We Do, but also to train and mobilize more volunteer attorneys."??

"Equal justice for all is one of the bedrock values of our nation," said Chief Judge Lippman. "Although we continually labor toward the establishment of a just society, we still have a long way to go to ensure every American has truly equal access to justice. I have every hope and expectation that the New York events planned for this first National Pro Bono Week will help focus attention on the pressing legal needs of our fellow New Yorkers -- and showcase the often overlooked generous and giving side of New York's legal community. I am grateful to the New York State Bar Association for their leadership on this important issue."

Governor David A. Paterson issued a proclamation declaring October 25-31, 2009 as National Pro Bono Week in New York State. Proclamations declaring the same in the cities of Albany, Amsterdam, Binghamton, Buffalo, Cohoes, Geneva, Ithaca, Lake George, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Troy and Utica also were unveiled at the event. In addition, Attorney General Cuomo issued a citation acknowledging the State Bar's support for National Pro Bono Week, as well as recognizing the State Bar's efforts in shaping the development of the law and in educating and informing the legal profession and the public.

Legal services organizations, local bar associations and law schools will be hosting a variety of events to mark National Pro Bono Week, including free continuing legal education seminars for attorneys who volunteer to accept a pro bono case, legal clinics where persons of limited financial means can receive a free consultation with an attorney volunteer in certain identified areas of law, as well as various receptions where attorney volunteers will be recognized.

A sample of events scheduled to commemorate National Pro Bono Week in New York include:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Bankruptcy Free Advice Clinic -2-4:30pm - Albany & Rensselaer County Courthouses

Have a question about bankruptcy, debtor/ creditor issues. Ask a lawyer. Twenty minute consultations will be provided free of charge to the public. Appointments Required -Space is Limited. To Register: (518) 462-6765. Sponsors: New York State Bar Association, The Legal Project, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, the Albany County Bar Association, and the 3rd and 4th Judicial District Pro Bono Committees.

Unemployment Hearings & Appeals - Pro Bono Seminar --12:30 -3:30pm - Queens County Bar Association 90-35 148th Street Jamaica, NY. Sponsors: The Queens County Bar Association/Queens Volunteer Lawyers' Project. Contact: Mark Weliky at mweliky@qcba.org.

Thursday, October 29, 2009
Mortgage Foreclosure Workshop - 2-4:15pm -Albany County Courthouse
Worried about foreclosure? Having trouble paying your mortgage? Ask a lawyer or speak with a housing counselor. Twenty minute consultations will be provided free of charge to the public. Appointments Required - Space is Limited. To Register: (518) 435-1770. Sponsors: New York State Bar Association, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, The Legal Project, Albany County Bar Association, and the 3rd and 4th Judicial District Pro Bono Committees.

To view a full listing of National Pro Bono Week events across New York, please visit  www.nysba.org/probono or visit www.probono.net/ny/calendar/week.2009-10-26. To view a listing of events taking place in various locations throughout the nation, please visit http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/featuredevents/.

The State Bar Association also recently launched its The Good We Do campaign, which highlights several personal stories of attorneys providing pro bono service to those in need throughout New York, as well as the many free programs and clinics offered and coordinated by the State Bar Association's Department of Pro Bono Affairs. These stories are featured on The Good We Do Blog at www.thegoodwedony.org

Founded in 1876, the 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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