Compassion, empathy and generosity are alive and well in South Florida’s legal community. Every day, the region’s busy attorneys provide invaluable pro bono services to residents who are unable to pay for their services. That includes infants and children who cannot speak for themselves in a court of law, as well as adults facing eviction or foreclosure, and aging seniors who need a guardian to protect their interests.
All too often these vulnerable members of our community face legal issues they do not understand or cannot assert their rights. For instance, a con artist might try to take financial advantage of a confused adult or a landlord might refuse to return a tenant’s security deposit, despite the terms of lease.
In South Florida, nonprofit organizations like Legal Services of Greater Miami, Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida provide low-cost or free services to area residents. In addition, the region’s law schools offer assistance with legal matters through their student clinics.
But the need for pro bono service continues to grow, year after year. A large percentage of Americans with legal problems simply cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Those in middle-income brackets may not qualify for free or reduced-fee legal assistance.
Fortunately, The American Bar Association, The Florida Bar and many other legal organizations recognize the importance of assisting these types of clients, and giving back to local communities. Many law firms of all sizes have organized pro bono programs and encourage their attorneys, paralegals and other staffers to contribute their time to worthy causes.
In this issue of South Florida Legal Guide, we salute several of the thousands of South Florida attorneys who assist clients on a pro bono basis. It’s a theme that could be repeated issue after issue, year after year.
Of course, you don’t have to be an attorney to give something back to your community. For instance, there is a deep, ongoing need for guardian ad litem volunteers to support and represent children in the courts. That includes young children abandoned by their parents or removed from parental custody, as well as adolescents in foster care facing the challenges of finding a job or continuing their education.
Through their pro bono contributions, South Florida’s attorneys serve as role models for volunteer leadership. Let’s follow their example and do our part to contribute to the future of our community.