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The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic decline have increased the need for civil legal assistance while also making it more difficult to find a lawyer. A new program from the State Bar of Wisconsin aims to connect attorneys from across the state with legal aid groups and pro bono opportunities.
In Wisconsin, a person is guaranteed the right to an attorney in a criminal proceeding, but not in civil proceedings. These civil proceedings are also more common than criminal matters, and in many ways have been complicated by the pandemic. Government mandated eviction moratoriums; custody disputes while parents navigate social distancing and businesses facing financial issues are all pandemic-related challenges that require legal help.
On Nov. 19, the State Bar of Wisconsin launched its Pro Bono Portal to connect lawyers with groups and people who need help navigating civil legal issues.
“With a rise in legal issues stemming from the pandemic – unemployment benefits, unlawful evictions, and domestic violence, to name a few – the need for pro bono work has never been greater,” a news release about the program states.
The portal connects lawyers to specific clients or with legal aid groups such as Judicare or Legal Action of Wisconsin.
“Lawyers want to help, and pro bono programs all over the state need volunteers. At a time when so many of us are working remotely, it’s that much harder to meet and connect with groups that are looking for volunteers,” Jeff Brown, the State Bar pro bono manager, said in a statement. “This is a natural solution to help make it easier for the two to connect with one another.”
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“The State Bar’s goal is to improve access to justice in Wisconsin,” he continued. “Achieving this goal depends in part on supporting and expanding our members’ volunteer efforts. While we can’t remove all the barriers to access to justice alone, we are an essential part of the solution.”
The volunteer opportunities include assisting in family courts across the state, representing prison inmates in federal court and helping businesses navigate COVID-19 challenges.
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