In this New Year holiday season, at first, when we think of free assistance to the poor, we might immediately consider the good work of our local food pantries. What more than alleviating the hunger of others more readily comes to mind?
Sometimes the disadvantaged hunger for justice that may be denied them due to their poverty. In the field of law, a historical, and current concept, comes to our mind: “pro bono publico.” More often called pro bono, this concept is an individual legal effort to aid the poor. It is often a little-publicized quality of the lawyer and the legal profession.
Yet, benefiting the public interest is one of many concepts that draws many potential law school candidates to study the legal profession and begin the practice of law.
There is a clear interest in the law to ensure fairness, and access, as a cornerstone to our system of justice. However, the lawyer must be able to run a profitable practice to be available to help all clients. Private practice lawyers themselves determine what amount of time and what area of law to devote to pro bono work.
There are other dedicated lawyers that devote considerably more time, indeed their whole professional time to public interest law. An excellent resource for potential clients to inquire is Prairie State Legal Services. From their website, www.pslegal.org, they state, “Prairie State Legal Services Inc. is a non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal aid to low-income persons and seniors who have important legal problems affecting their basic human needs.” Currently the Bureau County Bar Association is working with representatives of Prairie State to implement a conflicts panel for future referrals.
For further information reference, visit www.justia.com/lawyers/illinois/bureau-county/legal-aid-and-pro-bono-services.
Richard C. Fiocchi, Ladd
Note to readers: Richard C. Fiocchi is president of the Bureau County Bar Association.