Pro Bono Projects
The pro bono project model offers volunteers a satisfying means to serve the public good and an opportunity to gain valuable professional experience. Firms are encouraged to adopt signature projects. A supervising partner and a critical mass of attorneys who agree to accept Society referrals staff each project. Society staff members, who designed the pro bono project in their area of expertise, work directly with their law firm counterparts on accepted cases. The Society screens the matters, conducts CLE-training programs, prepares CLE practice materials, and mentors each assigned case.
The Civil Practice, the largest civil legal services program in the nation, provides assistance in more than 44,000 civil legal matters annually benefiting approximately 100,000 adults and children in New York City living at or below the poverty line. Through its law reform representation in more than 20 major pending cases, the Civil Practice benefits all two million low-income children and adults in the City living in poverty or just above the brutal edge of need.
cRIMINAL dEFENSE pRACTICE
The Legal Aid Society, the primary public defender in New York City, handles some 230,000 cases annually.
The Criminal Defense Pro Bono Project, in which volunteer lawyers allocate a third of their time over a nine-month period or serve as full-time externs for up to a year, provides legal resources to assist with this enormous caseload. Under the mentorship of senior Legal Aid Society trial counsel, participating attorneys will work arraignments and handle misdemeanor cases for clients as part of this program. They will be responsible for engaging in research, conducting criminal investigations, drafting motions and memoranda, preparing witnesses and conducting hearings and trials on their cases. They will also serve as part of litigation teams on complex felony matters.
The Criminal Appeals Bureau, New York City’s largest post-conviction appellate law office for indigent criminal defendants, has a long history of successfully affecting criminal law and procedure on a State and national level. Pro bono attorneys, mentored by senior appellate counsel, review the trial record, engage in issue selection, write the appellate brief, and engage in oral argument.
Juvenile Rights Practice
The Juvenile Rights Practice represents more than 30,000 children annually, in approximately 90 percent of the abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, and Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS) proceedings in New York City’s Family Courts.
The Juvenile Rights Pro Bono Project involves volunteer lawyers who represent our young clients in court to ensure their legal interests are being met. Additionally, volunteers will interact with JRP’s social workers who work with the attorneys and paralegals to ensure these clients receive the much needed social services to which they are entitled. Under the mentorship of senior Legal Aid Society counsel, pro bono attorneys gather facts, advocate with social services agencies, engage in motion practice and oral argument, draft memoranda, prepare witnesses, and represent youth at bench trials. Participating lawyers also may work with the Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit on litigation to address systemic problems within the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
Juvenile Rights Appeals
The Juvenile Rights Appeals Unit is the principal appellate counsel for New York City’s abused and neglected children and youth adjudicated as juvenile delinquents. Appellate advocacy is the natural extension of the representation provided in the trial court by JRP attorneys for both child welfare and juvenile delinquency clients. Pro bono attorneys, mentored by senior appellate counsel, review the trial record, engage in issue selection, draft the appellate brief, and when applicable, engage in oral argument.
Education Advocacy Project
The Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project (EAP) provides educational advocacy that enables abused and neglected clients to secure services addressing educational and developmental needs. Working with the Project staff, pro bono lawyers engage in multiple levels of legal advocacy - factual development and case documentation, negotiation of an appropriate service plan, implementation oversight, and representation at an administrative hearing. EAP volunteers work closely with trial attorney staff as well to assist in courtroom advocacy as necessary. Both corporate and litigation associates work effectively in this practice.