LQ: State's Access Campaign Rolls

March 2, 2007
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Attorneys in Michigan have another way to show their support of pro bono efforts besides taking on the cases themselves.

Through the State Bar of Michigan's Access to Justice program, attorneys can help to improve legal access for low-income people in Michigan as part of the bar's justice initiatives.

"Not everyone in the state can afford to access the courts through an attorney, or even navigate the courts," said Lesa Smith, program coordinator for the State Bar of Michigan. "This allows for dollars to go to the programs which have staff attorneys that are working pretty much pro bono."

Michigan attorneys are expected to provide representation without charge to a minimum of three low-income individuals, or provide a minimum of 30 hours of representation or services to low-income individuals or organizations, people of limited means, public service groups or charitable organizations, according to the voluntary pro bono standards of the State Bar of Michigan.

Those requirements can also be achieved through a $300 gift to the Access to Justice endowment fund, which may help attorneys who don't have the time to commit to pro-bono efforts, Smith said.

"I believe that it allows the attorneys to show that they have another way that they can spread their expertise," Smith said. "They're in the practice of law to help folks.

"It's a great reflection on the whole practice of lawyering, which allows all individuals, regardless of race, creed or income, to have access to the court."

The Access to Justice program has three corporate receptions throughout the state during the year, including the West Michigan Corporate Reception in Support of Access to Justice on March 22 at the Peninsular Club in Grand Rapids. For more information, contact Smith at (517) 346-6307 or by e-mail to lsmith@mail.michbar.org

Smith said that during 2005, West Michigan firms contributed $248,000 in support of civil legal assistance through the fund.     LQX

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