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Statewide Pro Bono Portal Launches

Tuesday, April 16, 2019   (0 Comments)
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A coalition of Virginia bar organizations promoting access to justice and legal aid programs just launched the statewide JusticeServer Pro Bono Portal. The website allows attorneys across the state to handle pro bono cases in any part of the commonwealth.

Intensive education and recruitment of Virginia attorney volunteers will follow.

Private attorneys who agree to work pro bono assist legal aid programs in helping thousands of low-income Virginians who otherwise would not be able to hire an attorney for representation in their civil legal case.

The Need

“Virginia’s legal aid program closes about 28,000 cases every year, helping 70,000 people, but could assist far more people with the help of more lawyers," said Nicole Harrell, co-chair of the VBA's Pro Bono Council. “Our job now is to alert thousands of lawyers across the state to the need for additional pro bono help and the ease with which attorneys can volunteer for cases through the new portal, and to sign them up.”

Attorneys interested in providing pro bono legal assistance should register online at JusticeServer.org. Registered attorneys can view cases offered by eight legal aid programs across the state, select one or more they would like to handle, complete the work and report case completion and results online.

Virginia attorneys are encouraged to volunteer at JusticeService.org and to attend a training session being offered to local bar associations and firms around the state. For information, contact Frances White.

Background

The concept of a pro bono portal began at the first Chief Justice's Pro Bono Summit in 2010. The every-other-year summit is organized by the VBA Pro Bono Council.

At the 2010 summit, attended by all of the justices of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Capital One General Counsel John Finneran committed his company to developing a vehicle to streamline and improve communications between legal aid programs and potential volunteers. The Chief Justice’s Pro Bono Summit of 2012 included the introduction of JusticeServer, the case management software system developed by a Capital One team with operational support by the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and Legal Aid Justice Center. Funding was provided by law firms of VBA members, the Virginia Law Foundation, Capital One, Dominion, Salesforce, and Firms in Service of Richmond.

JusticeServer continued being developed and implemented with Richmond and Charlottesville legal aid programs. Leadership partners starting in 2017 have included Techbridge, a software support nonprofit in Atlanta, Virginia Legal Aid Society in Lynchburg, and Kemps CaseWorks, a case management system used by many Virginia legal aid programs, with additional funding by the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation and the federal Legal Services Corporation.

Improving Access to Justice

The new, 2019 portal is truly statewide. It adds pro bono cases from almost all of the other legal aid programs in the state, including Virginia Legal Aid Society, Blue Ridge Legal Services, Legal Aid Works, Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, Legal Services of Northern Virginia, and Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society.

"On average there is one legal aid lawyer per 7,237 poor persons in Virginia, and only 20% of the legal needs of low-income Virginians receive advice or assistance from a lawyer," said Harrell, with the law firm Kaufman & Canoles, P.C. "The JusticeServer pro bono portal will help give more attorneys easy access to cases and clients needing help, particularly those in rural Virginia with little access to an attorney."


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