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INVOLVING PROFESSIONAL VOLUNTEERS

Involving volunteers from outside of the legal profession can enhance the services a pro bono program provides, both for clients and for volunteers. Services can be enhanced by the provision of supportive services for volunteer attorneys - such as court reporters or nurses - or by the provision of additional services for clients - such as social workers or counselors.

Clients' matters often require more than legal expertise to reach a resolution. Volunteers from a variety of professions can be of great assistance. Some professions that offer assistance necessary in serving clients are:

  • court reporters
  • medical profession
  • appraisers
  • actuaries
  • accountants
  • handwriting experts
  • interpreters
  • mediators
  • psychologists
  • paralegals
Ways in which to involve court reporters, medical and mental health professionals, and paralegals will be explored in more detail below as examples of how a pro bono program can engage professionals.

Court Reporters

The availability of a volunteer court reporter enhances an attorney's ability to represent a pro bono client in complex cases requiring depositions or other recorded testimony. In recognition of the important role court reporters can play in providing legal services to the indigent, the National Court Reporters Association provides in its code of ethics that "members are encouraged to provide pro bono services. through qualified legal assistance organizations providing free legal services to the indigent."

Often, working with the state's court reporter association will lead to pro bono participation by court reporters. For example:

  • the Texas Court Reporter Association has a set of pro bono guidelines for court reporters and attorneys

  • the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters lists the opportunity to provide pro bono as one of the benefits of joining the association in its publicity brochure

  • the Iowa Court Reporter Association asks on its membership form whether the applicant is willing to participate in pro bono

  • the State Bar of Georgia has a court reporter project through which court reporters provide pro bono services for attorneys volunteering through an approved pro bono program

  • the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland provides referrals to pro bono court reporters when necessary in a pro bono case

Medical and Mental Health Professionals

Medical professionals can be helpful both in the context of a client's case and also in providing services which are not required by a court case, but which will assist the client in moving beyond her current challenges. The assistance of a medical professional in analyzing medical records for a disability case can be invaluable. The provision of substance abuse counseling to a client facing housing problems can also be of great benefit.

As an example of utilizing medical professionals in a client's case, the State Bar of Georgia engages pro bono nurse consultants to analyze and research disability and general medical issues as they relate to unemployment, SSI, ADA, or prescription drug cases, or other medical-related matters.

The Volunteer Legal Services Program ("VLSP") of the Bar Association of San Francisco involves volunteer mental health professionals both in the context of client cases and in addressing the clients' issues in a holistic manner. The VLSP offers volunteer opportunities for social services providers, therapists, and substance abuse counselors. VLSP offers these volunteers support and training, just as it does for attorney volunteers, including:

  • free CEU/CIMCE/MCEP accredited training. The trainings are free in return for a commitment to providing pro bono assistance to at least two clients in need in the next 12 months.
  • comprehensive training manuals
  • mentoring opportunities
  • access to all probono.net resources in their practice area

Paralegals Paralegal volunteers can expand a program's capacity by complementing services offered by volunteer attorneys. Paralegals can assist with the client interview process, research, administrative hearings, and other aspects of client service. For more information about involving paralegals in pro bono, please visit the Center for Pro Bono's web page on paralegals.

For More Information

The ABA Center for Pro Bono's Clearinghouse library contains additional materials concerning ways to facilitate pro bono participation by professionals, including brochures and articles. For more information, please contact Cheryl Zalenski by telephone at (312) 988-5770 or .

Updated: 3/1/2005

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