Pro Bono Opportunities with Community Legal Services
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF) is the primary provider of free legal aid for low to moderate income residents in 12 counties across Florida. For 50 years we have been providing legal assistance and advocacy to help the people of Central Florida obtain the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, health care, safety and education.
The need for our services greatly outweighs our resources. Osceola and Orange counties have become hot spots for pro bono opportunities in family law and other areas. The CLSMF Volunteer Lawyer’s Project relies on the enthusiasm and devotion of attorneys such as yourselves to serve those in our community who would not be able to receive legal help otherwise. My name is Ichi Vazquez, and I am the Pro Bono Coordinator for Osceola, Orange and Seminole Counties. As a coordinator, it’s my job to facilitate and make your volunteering experience a rewarding and educational one, while simultaneously catering to the legal needs of our clients and our communities.
The Benefits of Pro Bono Volunteering – What We Do For You
Tracking Pro Bono Time
To make a pro bono attorney’s job easier, we log, enter and keep track of all volunteer hours and case updates attorneys take on for full representation or legal advice.
Malpractice Insurance and Reimbursements
CLSMF offers all of our pro bono attorneys malpractice insurance and reimbursements for case-related costs. These expenses are explained in more detail in a document sent when an attorney decides to accept a case referral and represent a client. In general, this reimbursement can include things such as printing, mailing costs, court reporters, etc.
All pro bono attorneys are provided with a list of CLE’s that are offered free of charge. We also notify our volunteers if there are any CLEs that CLSMF is offering to staff attorneys so they can sign up for those as well.
If there is an area of law that a volunteer attorney is interested in learning more about, CLSMF can set up mentoring sessions on a range of legal concentrations with other current volunteer attorneys or CLSMF staff attorneys.
Is there a client you know that cannot afford your firm’s services, and you would like to refer them out? Or is there a client who can no longer pay for your services, but you are willing to help them pro bono and are not tied to any organization that can assist you? CLSMF can help!
Diverse Range of Time Commitments
In essence, CLSMF works around a volunteer attorney’s busy schedule. Commitments can range from taking on one case for representation a year to taking cases on a rolling basis or simply providing legal advice to clients to attending a legal advice clinic or workshop at a set time on a monthly basis.
As you may already know, CLSMF holds Legal Advice Clinics (LACs) across various counties in Central Florida where eligible clients are scheduled to meet face-to-face with a pro bono attorney to receive free legal advice for their legal matter. During the clinics, clients are provided with advice and instructions on how to handle their legal matter on a pro se basis. If the pro bono attorney is willing to accept a client’s case, they may move forward with it on his/her own schedule, and CLSMF monitors the case to ensure everything is going smoothly.
Below is some information on recurring events, as well as other projects that are on the horizon:
– Orange County Bankruptcy LAC (Orlando Office), the first Monday of each month, 5-7pm
– Osceola Bankruptcy LAC (Kissimmee Office), first Thursday of every month, 5-7pm
– Osceola Family Law LAC (Kissimmee Office), second Tuesday of every month, 3-6pm
– Osceola DOM/Paternity Documents Workshop: The newest project is a monthly workshop where law students help clients fill out divorce or paternity documents and assist them with sections they do not understand. This process occurs under the supervision of a volunteer attorney. The first workshop will be June 22nd in the CLSMF Kissimmee Office at 3 pm. All law students receive an initial mandatory training session with our Family Unit Leader Marcellina Spigner, Esq. before volunteering at a workshop.
– Phone Advice Referrals: For case referrals that CLSMF does not have specific legal advice clinics for, we reach out to a volunteer attorney who has shown interest in providing legal advice in particular areas of law. This is a flexible option for attorneys who wish to do pro bono work, but have unpredictable schedules. Those interested in giving phone advice can contact the local Pro Bono Coordinator (in this case me) and let them know what areas of law they would be interested in giving legal advice on. Whenever we have a related case referral, we email the attorney and ask them if they are interested in providing phone advice at this time. The attorney is sent the case summary form in addition to any related documents and the Pro Bono Coordinator facilitates/arranges the phone appointments. Attorneys may also call the clients in their own time or have their legal assistants set up the call.
I am excited to meet and work further with members of the Osceola County Bar Association, and am available to answer any of your questions regarding these opportunities. As other projects come into fruition in the near future, I will make sure to update you all on any other pro-bono-related events that CLSMF is working on. If you have any questions at all, please email me at [email protected]. I will also be present at future luncheons, so I look forward to meeting more of you in person.