August 15, 2018
On July 26, LAWV’s Access to Services Manager Kate White was asked to speak at the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) board meeting in Boise, ID. The invitation was extended to LAWV and two other recipients of LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grants, started in 2014. This board meeting marked the first time many of LSC’s board members were able to hear from grantees on their pro bono projects.
“I was excited to share about the pro bono project we’ve been working on,” Kate says. “Legal Aid is working with volunteer attorneys to reach people in the community in a place they know and feel safe. We’re meeting people where they are.”
Kate presented on LAWV’s Lawyer in the School program, a pro bono engagement project started at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School in January 2017. Since its start, the program has been staffed by a mix of private attorneys and LAWV staff, and the LSC board was impressed with both the service model and the number of new pro bono volunteers that continue to be engaged with the program. Over 70 volunteer attorneys have assisted with the program, coming from many Charleston area law firms, including Steptoe and Johnson, Jackson Kelly, Bailey Glasser, Bowles Rice, Babst Calland, Frost Brown Todd, and more.
Lawyer in the School brings attorneys to the school, where they meet with school families to provide guidance on civil legal issues, such as housing, guardianship, and lack of economic resources. In providing these services, Lawyer in the School hopes to provide a more secure home and school life for children and families in the Charleston West Side community.
Lawyer in the School has received high praise and positive feedback from its participatory attorneys as a meaningful pro bono program. “The opportunity to participate in this effort in a hands-on manner, in the community, interacting with clients… was an exceptional and meaningful opportunity. Being able to provide assistance where it is truly needed was beneficial to both those served by the clinic and our firm. We look forward to our continuing involvement with this worthy and needed endeavor.” Says Michael Victorson, general counsel to Jackson Kelly.
LSC has given LAWV a Sustainability Grant to continue the program for at least two more years, and the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and the Kanawha Valley Council on Philanthropy have also awarded grants to the program. With this funding and a stable pool of pro bono volunteers, more families can be served as Lawyer in the School expands in the coming year to Grandview Elementary School in Charleston.
Photo (from left to right): Ann Porath, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland; John Levi, LSC Board Chair; Kate White; Raphael Ramos, Legal Action of Wisconsin