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October 22, 2010

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES SECOND ANNUAL NATIONAL PRO BONO WEEK

Week-long National Celebration Pays Tribute to the Extraordinary Contributions of Volunteer Attorneys and Offers Useful Training Opportunities for Lawyers to Continue Doing the Public Good

Recognizing the outstanding contributions of the scores of attorneys who donate legal services to the public, members of the New York State Bar Association today celebrated the Second Annual National Pro Bono Week with a kickoff event held at the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany. The event is part of a week-long national celebration being held October 24-30 to honor attorneys for their commitment in volunteering to serve those in need.

Established in 2009 by the American Bar Association (ABA), National Pro Bono Week is a coordinated national effort to meet the ever-growing needs of this country's most vulnerable citizens by encouraging and supporting local efforts to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services, to recognize the significant efforts made by attorneys who already participate in pro bono, and to showcase the tremendous difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, our system of justice, our communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve.

"Lawyers who volunteer their time to pro bono service are the true heroes of our profession," State Bar President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP) told the audience. "By answering the call to help those in need, lawyers are making a difference in the lives of millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. National Pro Bono Week provides us with an opportunity to not only celebrate the good that lawyers do but to also encourage that spirit of giving back to the community that has become a hallmark of the legal profession.

"If any one of us doubts for a second the magnitude of the contributions made by pro bono lawyers, we need only to consider the difference that can be made by even just one attorney," continued Younger, referring to a recent foreclosure case in Maine that has made national headlines. "One lawyer, volunteering in one case, has shed light on a repeated practice that could very well have unlawfully deprived thousands of families the right to their most precious investment, their home. This reinforces the simple truth that we all know - the only way to bring light to these injustices is by making sure that both parties in an action have a lawyer." 

Attending the kickoff event were the Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York; 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; State Bar President-Elect Vincent E. Doyle of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo LLP); Peter Kiernan, Counsel to Governor David A. Paterson, appearing on behalf of the Governor; and Elena DeFio Kean, Albany County Bar Association President. A recipient of pro bono legal services also spoke to the audience and relayed her personal story of how The Legal Project helped her work with her lender to obtain a loan modification and avoid foreclosure on her home.

Last year, more than 1400 State Bar Association members donated nearly a quarter of a million hours of free legal services in a wide range of cases including child custody, immigration matters, bankruptcy, mortgage foreclosures and providing assistance and counsel to victims of mass disasters and their families. These attorneys were recognized in January of this year as distinguished members of the State Bar's Empire State Counsel for each donating 50 hours or more of pro bono services during a calendar year to the poor or to not-for-profit, governmental and public services organizations.

Governor David A. Paterson issued a proclamation declaring October 24-30, 2010 as National Pro Bono Week in New York State. Proclamations declaring the same in the cities of Albany, Amsterdam, Binghamton, Cohoes, Lake George, Niagara Falls, Oswego, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Troy, Utica, Yonkers and several other municipalities, also were unveiled.

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 includes:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Free Bankruptcy Training for Pro Bono Lawyers - 9:00-3:00 p.m. - Holiday Inn, Wolf Road, Albany

The Legal Project and The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, in collaboration with the Federal Bankruptcy Bar Association; The New York State Bar Association; Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga County bar associations, are offering a free bankruptcy continuing legal education program for lawyers in the Third, Fourth and Ninth Judicial Districts who agree to accept two pro bono bankruptcy cases referrals from area legal services providers during 2010-2011.  Attendees will earn 4.5 CLE credits.  Contact: Siobhan Blank, sblank@albanycountybar.com; (518) 445-7691(ext. 13) to register.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Pro Se Uncontested Divorce Clinic - 2:00-4:00 p.m. - Legal Aid Society of Mid New York- 255 Genesee Street, 2nd Floor, Utica

Friday, October 29, 2010
Pro Bono Training Institute - 1:00-5:00 p.m. - Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom- Albany Law School

The training institute will feature ALS Professor Joseph Connors on Client Interviewing;   Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York Lillian Moy on Cultural Competency; and ALS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Connie Mayer on Ethics in the Context of Poverty Law. Contact: Susan Feathers, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, sfeat@albanylaw.edu.

To view a full listing of National Pro Bono Week events across New York, please visit  www.nysba.org/probono or visit www.nysba.org/2010npbwcoe.  To view a listing of events taking place in various locations throughout the nation, please visit http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/events/.

Founded in 1876, the 77,000-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. For more information, visit us at our Web site at www.nysba.org.

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