Why Pro Bono
No matter where you live or work, no matter what type of legal work you do, there is a family, a veteran, a child, or a senior who needs your help. You can be part of a team of experienced attorneys, paralegals and advocates who work to keep Central Floridians in their homes, put food on their tables, get the medical care that they need and ensure that they live with dignity and respect. By volunteering just 20 hours a year as part of our Volunteer Lawyers Project, you can help someone overcome life’s obstacles and get back on their feet. You will also have the added benefit of meeting The Florida Bar’s pro bono requirement. Join us in making a difference in the lives of others.
Learn about attorneys in Central Florida who have made a difference in people’s lives by giving pro bono assistance.
Florida Pro Bono Matters
CLSMF is continuously working to expand its reach in the community. With the implementation of a new program, pro bono attorneys can now choose cases through an interactive website called Florida Pro Bono Matters (floridaprobonomatters.org). The website is expected to increase the accessibility and convenience for CLSMF pro bono attorneys by allowing them to choose the cases.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Volunteering Right for You?
How much time will volunteering take?
The Supreme Court of Florida suggests that a member of The Florida Bar donate a minimum of 20 hours of pro bono service or $350 each year to your pro bono program. Many attorneys do more!
Why should I volunteer for the Volunteer Lawyers Project of CLSMF rather than do Pro Bono work on my own?
By handling the work through our program, your efforts can be directed to the areas most needed. We also keep a record of the hours you report, pay for reasonable and necessary litigation costs and provide secondary malpractice insurance coverage.
I am not a litigator. Can I still participate?
Absolutely! Many of our cases are resolved without litigation. In addition, we need volunteer attorneys who are willing to speak to groups and provide community legal education, assist with pro se workshops and numerous other projects.
Is pro bono just for urban areas?
No. Community Legal Services serves 12 counties that are both rural and urban. While the need for legal services in urban areas may seem great, it is equally important to serve rural areas where the number of lawyers tends to be comparatively low.
Just like every attorney, I have the occasional client who can’t afford to pay for my services. Can I do that case as part of my pro bono service?
Contact us and we will complete an intake for the client. If the client falls within our eligibility guidelines, the case can be processed as a pro bono case.
I don’t have the time to volunteer – can I still meet The Florida Bar Pro Bono Requirement?
Yes, you can donate a minimum of $350 to meet your pro bono requirement. If you law firm donates $350 per attorney practicing in our service area, your firm will be recognized as a Sustaining Law Firm.
How does it work and how do I get started?
It’s easy. Just sign up. Once you sign up, you will be added to our pro bono panel. A pro bono coordinator will contact you directly to discuss current pro bono opportunities.
What kind of cases would I work on?
Our volunteer lawyers work with our clients to get them back on their feet by providing advice, pro se assistance and/or full representation on a variety of issues including:
- Family Law
- Simple Estate & Probate
- Consumer Law
- Tort Defense
- Real Property
- Pro Se Divorce Clinics
- Legal Advice Clinics
- Community Education Presentations
- Social Security Overpayments
- Family/Civil Mediation
- Mortgage Foreclosure Defense
Where do I work?
You can work out of your office, your home or in one of our eight offices in Central Florida. Our pro bono coordinators will assist you with scheduling a meeting with a client in one of our offices. You can also choose to provide telephone legal advice to clients.
What Happens After I Take a Case?
Once I have agreed to meet with the client, do I have to accept the case?
No. There may be various reasons you would not accept the case for full representation, including a case falling outside your area of expertise, requiring too much of your time, or lack of merit. You may assist a client by providing legal advice or by helping him or her complete pro se forms.
Do I have to pay for expenses related to the case?
You do not have to pay for expenses related to the case. We will either arrange for payment of expenses or reimburse you. You may also choose to contribute the costs of the case to Community Legal Services. Contact us to find out how you can make your gift tax deductible.
Can I ask for attorneys fees?
We encourage you to ask for attorney fees. If fees are awarded, you may keep the fees. You can also choose to donate part or all of those fees to Community Legal Services. We will provide you with the necessary documentation to qualify for a tax deduction. We also offer participation in the Reduced Fee Panel for attorneys who are members of the Volusia County Bar Association. Volusia County clients who do not qualify for free help through CLSMF but cannot afford full fees at a private attorney can participate in this program. The Reduced Fee Panel is a project of the Volusia County Bar Association.
Do you cover me for malpractice?
Yes. Our malpractice policy provides secondary coverage on cases that you work on for us.
Can I also help by donating money?
How can I share my story?
Help inspire other lawyers to follow in your footsteps and experience the rewards of pro bono work with CLSMF. Share your story by contacting us.
Do You Have Resources for Pro Bono Attorneys?
What support do you provide?
Our staff attorneys and other volunteer attorneys will personally mentor you through a case. Contact them now.
We also have an extensive pleadings bank, pro se forms and legal advice checklist that can be made available to you.
Do you offer CLE?
Several times during the year we provide CLE training for our volunteer attorneys. We also are able to provide you with the link to free CLE webinars.
Can you direct me to other resources?
HOW DO IS SIGN UP?
it’s easy! Fill out our sign up form and a pro bono coordinator will contact you to answer any questions that you may have and get you started on your first project.
Pro Bono Rules
What are the Pro Bono Rules?
On June 23, 1993, the Supreme Court of Florida issued its opinion adopting the new pro bono rules effective October 1, 1993. Rule 4-6.1 establishes an aspirational professional responsibility to perform annually twenty (20) hours of pro bono legal services for the poor or to contribute annually $350 to a legal aid organization. The rule also requires that attorneys report their compliance with this requirement each year. Failure to report is considered a disciplinary offense.
Who do the Rules apply to?
The pro bono rules apply to all members of The Florida Bar in good standing except those members of the Bar who are retired, inactive, suspended or have been placed on the inactive list for incapacity not related to discipline.
Application of the rule is deferred to judges and their staffs unless and until legal prohibitions to pro bono legal services are removed. Application of the rule is also deferred for government lawyers who are typically prohibited from performing pro bono legal services.
Can I get credit for doing more than 20 hours of pro bono legal services in one year?
Yes. The hours in excess of twenty (20) hours may be carried forward and reported as such for up to two (2) succeeding years. However, it is hoped attorneys will want to continue providing needed pro bono assistance and will want to report all of their pro bono hours each year, so the true amount of volunteer service being provided in a year can be measured.
Can I provide legal services if I am not licensed in Florida, or if I am retired?
Yes! Contact us to find out more.
Can attorneys work collectively to satisfy the professional responsibility requirement by applying the pro bono work of a few attorneys to satisfy the professional responsibility of many?
The Supreme Court of Florida encourages lawyers to personally provide pro bono services, but also recognizes that collective credit is necessary in limited circumstances because of the time, effort and expense involved. Collective satisfaction is permitted by law firms and must be under a plan filed with the circuit pro bono committee that meets certain requirements. You may also want to consider having your firm become a Sustaining Law Firm.
If I help someone for free, isn’t that pro bono?
Pro bono service is legal assistance provided without charge or expectation of fees at the time the service commences. Legal services written off as a bad debt or a case in which an attorney cannot collect a fee do not qualify as pro bono.
What is the difference between community service and pro bono service?
Pro bono service involves the provision of free legal services. Attorneys who participate in bar association activities, volunteer to serve on the board of a nonprofit, or serve on a professional association’s board or committee are providing community or public service, unless they provide free legal assistance as part of their activities.