Pro Bono - Corporate Counsel Linking San Diego's In-House Legal Community With Pro Bono Opportunities

Saturday, October 1, 2005 - 01:00

The San Diego Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel is linking the region's in-house legal community with a wide range of pro bono opportunities in collaboration with a number of agencies dedicated to serving those in need.

Through an informal partnership between the chapter and the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc. (LASSD), in-house counsel have an opportunity to provide pro bono services to five programs involving youth at risk, including victim/youth offender mediation; family intervention mediation; peer mediation training; group conferencing mediation; and representation at school disciplinary hearings. They also can appear pro bono in family law court handling such matters as domestic violence TRO's, and show cause hearings.

Through LASSD's Economic Impact Program, in-house counsel provide pro bono assistance to 501(c)(3)'s on such corporate matters as advice on tax laws related to fundraising and managing high impact litigation. They also provide Homeless Prevention Advocacy, which gives advice to defendants with unlawful detainer issues. The range of other issues being addressed includes immigration matters, consumer credit matters, basic estate planning and guardianship.

For all of its volunteer lawyers, LASSD offers training, training materials, experienced lawyers as mentors, prescreening of cases and malpractice insurance.

The Law Library Project is a collaboration of San Diego Volunteer Lawyers Program (SDVLP) and the San Diego Public Law Library to assist unrepresented litigants in obtaining legal information and advice. A general advice legal clinic is conducted every Monday evening from 6 to 8 p.m., and a second legal clinic is offered on Wednesday afternoons from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Law Library`s downtown San Diego branch. Members are not expected to take on a client for on-going representation. They are there to spot issues, assist individuals in legal research and filing procedures, and refer clients to other legal resources from a list compiled by SDVLP.

In cooperation with the Probate Court and Probate Examiner's Office, SDVLP operates weekly clinics to assist self-represented, responsible adults who are residents of San Diego County in obtaining guardianship of children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parent(s). There is a short "hands-on" training session for volunteers at the clinics, and SDVLP attorneys are available to assist.

SDVLP conducts periodic meetings throughout San Diego County at various senior centers, and counsel are needed to advise seniors in various legal matters, including consumer protection and landlord-tenant issues, estate planning and trust administration, insurance issues, conservatorship, elder-fiduciary abuse and other civil law matters. In-house counsel are not expected to take on a client for on-going representation. They are there to spot issues and refer clients to SDVLP and/or other legal resources from a list that is compiled by SDVLP.

Victims of domestic violence receive assistance in completing and filing restraining orders, related legal relief, and referrals to social support agencies and shelters. Services are provided at project clinics located throughout the county. No prior substantive law knowledge is required to volunteer at the Domestic Violence legal clinics. A short "hands-on" training session is provided at the clinics and experienced SDVLP staff attorneys are available to assist volunteers.

The AIDS Legal Services Project provides comprehensive legal services to HIV positive individuals who meet certain income and asset ceilings. Direct representation is limited to those situations where no contingency fee arrangements are available through the private bar. When appropriate, the AIDS Legal Services Project will refer individuals to other agencies throughout San Diego County.

Staff and volunteer attorneys provide assistance in a variety of subjects including, but not limited to, estate planning, landlord/tenant disputes, bankruptcy and other debtor/creditor problems, insurance difficulties, family law questions, employment discrimination situations, guardianship and conservatorship matters, social security appeals, tax issues, confidentiality concerns and traffic tickets. The project does not handle criminal matters, nor does it typically provide on-going representation on matters that are unrelated to the client's diagnosis, e.g., most personal injury actions. The AIDS Legal Services Project provides such services through satellite legal clinics held periodically throughout San Diego County, as well as referrals to volunteers. Members who attend one of the legal clinics are not required to take on clients for on-going representation. They are there to help spot issues, provide advice, and refer clients to SDVLP and/or other legal resources from a list that is compiled by SDVLP.

The Lawyers for the Arts program is an alliance of attorneys willing to donate their time and expertise on volunteer legal projects with arts organizations in San Diego County. Areas of expertise in demand are contracts, copyright, patent, trademark, leases, nonprofit incorporation, insurance, immigration, labor/employment, tax and trusts.

For more information on the numerous and valuable pro bono opportunities available to in-house counsel, visit the San Diego Chapter's web pages at