CLSMF Mobile Helpline Offers Unique Pro Bono Opportunities








As Alexander Graham Bell, “father” of the telephone once stated, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” Now, 51,731 days after the patent of the telephone, we are recognizing National Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2017 (October 23-28) with a new take on pro bono: the Mobile Helpline. 

This inspiring idea takes volunteer attorneys, a law firm conference room, a little bit of technology, and a collaborative spirit to make it all come together. On Tuesday, October 24, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF) packed its bags and boxes, headed to the law offices of Burr & Forman, and the idea of “CLSMF Helpline on the Road” went live.

After a brief orientation on the CLSMF online intake and how to use the Helpline phone system, volunteer attorneys from Burr & Forman answered phone calls from individuals seeking legal advice who otherwise could not afford to an attorney. Calls ranged from an elderly citizen facing eviction to a mother losing custody of her child. Several of these calls involved intricate legal issues not often seen by firm attorneys, but with the support of onsite CLSMF staff, much needed legal advice was provided to callers.

The Mobile Helpline is a project first designed to meet the needs of Floridians requiring legal assistance as a result of Hurricane Irma. While the initial concept of a mobile call center (aka “Helpline on the Road”) was focused on disaster-related legal issues, Celebrate Pro Bono Week became the perfect opportunity to truly unleash the potential of large law firm pro bono volunteers.

Paired with our technology to create Mobile Helplines wherever the opportunity arose, these firms can now set up an in-house legal aid helpline to further meet the need for this in-kind service in our communities. All that is required is an outlet, an internet connection, and willing volunteer attorneys (caffeine and snacks don’t hurt either).