Pro Bono


Would pro bono legal help lead to the patenting of more useful items? (Here, an 1879 plow)

Would pro bono legal help lead to the patenting of more useful items? (Here, an 1879 plow)

I routinely hear about—and share—stories of the need for increased legal services, and how pro bono service fills some of that gap.

The needs are great and often thought of as being in areas such as bankruptcy, landlord–tenant, or employment law.

But what about a more esoteric area of law? Could there be a pro bono need for practice experts like that—such as in patent law?

That was the kind of thinking that led to the creation—the invention, you might say—of a patent law pro bono program. A friend, Diane D’Angelo, shared a recent story with me. It’s from the Denver Post, and you can read the whole thing here.

As the story indicates, the initiative, launched in 2012, involves a bar association and its attorneys in that practice area. The Pro Bono Patent Program is “led by Mi Casa Resource Center and Colorado Bar Association Intellectual Property Section to pair low-income inventors with patent professionals. Since its launch, 67 inventors have begun the application process and two were able to get their ideas patented.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes the initiative well; it arose from a law signed in 2011:

Patents and the ideas behind them are an engine of the economy (like this Scuderi split-cycle engine).

Patents and the ideas behind them are an engine of the economy (like this Scuderi split-cycle engine).

“The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) understands that one of the main barriers to getting a patent is cost-not necessarily the USPTO fees associated with patents, but the cost of hiring a skilled patent attorney to file and prosecute an application.”

“On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law. Section 32 of the AIA specifies that, ‘The Director shall work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses.’ ‘Pro bono’ is a Latin phrase meaning ‘done for the public good without compensation.’ With this directive, the USPTO effectively switched into full gear to implement its AIA Pro Bono Program, which it had already been developing in anticipation of the legislation. The president’s ink was still drying when the first client signed with the pilot program in Minnesota. Since that date, the program has expanded to connect clients with volunteer pro bono attorneys across the country in multiple regional programs.”

Read the full history here.

Just as important—and why I share the story now—on May 12, “Mi Casa, the Colorado Bar Association and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the extension of the program—or ProBoPat—to the states of New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.”

According to the story, that increases the program’s range to 49 states. And the U.S. PTO shows Arizona as being one of those. Unfortunately, its link to the Grand Canyon State takes you to a California program. So I’m curious: Who in Arizona is participating in or coordinating this program here? (I’m being a little inventive myself and crowd-sourcing the answer!)

If it’s you—or if you know who it is—contact me. I’d like to hear more about patent pro bono in Arizona.

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

On Saturday, April 25, the State Bar of Arizona once again held its annual Law Day legal-aid clinics. There, more than 20 attorneys volunteered ther time and expertise to assist more than 200 consumers.

The following update comes from my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

“On Saturday, April 25 the State Bar of Arizona held the 2015 Law Day Legal Aid Clinics where 21 of its members offered free one-on-one legal consultations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at two locations in Phoenix.”

“The clinics offered free legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure, Probate/Trust Law, and Immigration Law at State Bar of Arizona headquarters and St. Matthew Parish in central Phoenix. This year, the Bar partnered with ABC15 and Univision Arizona to promote the day-long clinics, which proved to be overwhelmingly successful.”

“Volunteer attorneys provided 216 consultations during law clinic for the 208 consumers who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the clinic to consumers who needed additional help.”

To read more about the Law Day clinics—including links to media coverage and the names of all the volunteers—click here.

The number-1 goal of the Arizona courts is access to justice.

The number-1 goal of the Arizona courts is access to justice.

How busy is your average day? How would you assess yourself on the helpfulness scale?

I hope you’re a typically helpful person, but when I saw what Arizona legal aid agencies do in a single day, I realized I’d have to step up to even come close.

The following terrific information came my way from Heather Murphy at the Arizona Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts. She passed on an analysis from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education (or the Bar Foundation, if you prefer) that shows the activities of those agencies on just one day. As they say, what a difference a day makes.

As they indicate below, the agencies tracked the activity related to individuals seeking assistance for crises that only legal expertise can resolve. The help they offer is remarkable. The gap that remains is huge—and growing.

Heather reminds me that access to justice is one of the five priority areas in Advancing Justice Together: Courts & Communities, the five-year strategic agenda for Arizona’s statewide network of courts. You can read the strategic agenda here.

And more about the Arizona Commission on Access to Justice is here.

And here is the Foundation:

The phones started ringing early at legal aid agencies across Arizona, and kept ringing as people also walked in and requested help via an online portal: 597 Arizona families were calling out for legal help on this one day.

In honor of Governor Doug Ducey’s proclamation declaring April “Access to Justice Month,” Arizona’s three legal aid agencies organized a “What a Difference a Day Makes” campaign to bring attention to the importance of and need for access to legal resources and assistance. For 24 hours, Community Legal Services, DNA People’s Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid tracked the activity related to individuals seeking assistance for crises that only legal expertise can resolve. On Tuesday, April 14, Arizona’s legal aid organizations made an enormous difference:

  • In the lives of 509 individuals who were offered help in their legal crisis
  • With the 69 people given support in self-help legal clinics
  • With the assistance of 25 volunteer attorneys donating their time and expertise free of charge

Each day, the legal aid agencies across Arizona are making a difference in the lives of those they serve and in the communities where they live.  These unsung heroes should be thanked. But you best send a note, because their phone lines will be busy helping the next person in need.

In 2014:

  • The three Arizona legal aid agencies helped 31,605 Arizonans: 17,663 adults and 13,942 children.
  • Legal assistance was provided to Arizonans in each of the state’s 15 counties and Arizona’s 21 Native American tribes.

Community Legal Services, DNA People’s Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid provide legal assistance on various areas of law, including: family law with an emphasis on eliminating domestic violence; consumer; employment; housing and mortgage foreclosure; individual rights; health/medical related; and public benefits (access to government benefits such as unemployment insurance and social security disability benefits).

More information about all three agencies is below. Contact them to make a difference yourself:

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color“Free” may never have sounded more enticing. But that word describes an event this Saturday, April 25, when you can ask lawyers questions for free!

That’s when the State Bar participates in Law Day and when its attorney volunteers give of their time and expertise in the fourth annual Law Day Legal Aid Clinics.

The one-on-one sessions are available in the following areas:

  • Divorce & Child Support
  • Immigration
  • Wills & Trusts
  • Bankruptcy & Foreclosure

The event will be staged at two locations. For more information, click here.

And be sure to share this link with those who might benefit. All of the information on the site is available in both English and Spanish.

The event is sponsored by the State Bar, ABC-15 News, Univision Arizona, and St. Matthew Catholic Parish in Phoenix.

12 News logoI regularly report on the activities of Lawyers on Call, a State Bar public service program hosted at the ofices of 12 News, the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. At the events, volunteer lawyers answer consumer questions on various topics. On Tuesday, March 31, the event focused on tax laws. In a moment, I’ll share the names of the generous volunteer attorneys. But first, it’s worth noting that this version of Lawyers on Call included a new development: the use of a streaming video app, Periscope, to better address some consumer questions. To add to the functionality, this past month’s event also includes a video recap (see it at the end of this post). I am very impressed by the video’s quality, achieved via free apps. That makes me think I should try my hand at some videos myself! State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorThe Lawyers on Call news comes, as always, from my innovative colleague Alberto Rodriguez: Five attorneys volunteered their time and expertise on March 31, 2015, to offer legal advice on tax law. The attorneys were:

The lawyers answered 118 calls, 23 questions via Facbook, and a handful on Periscope, a streaming video app that had 55 participants. Sample consumer questions:

  • How do I report on gaming winnings?
  • How does the Affordable Health Care Act affect my file/return?
  • What are the penalties if I file late or file an extension?
  • How does filing bankruptcy affect my 2015 file/return?

Several callers reported scam activity—receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to be an “IRS” representative who request personal information and payments. Facebook continues to be a successful component of Lawyers on Call, as attorney Derek Kaczmarek answered 23 questions posted on the 12 News fan page. In addition, the 12 News social media team launched the use of Periscope, an interactive streaming video app where participants could ask their questions live. Four out of the five attorneys were first-time volunteers. All volunteers were extremely satisfied with the quality of the questions overall and were excited to have participated in the Lawyers on Call public service program. Here is a terrific video recap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n83m1ZbclBs&feature=youtu.be

AZ Summit Law School Phoenix Law logoSome news from the folks at Arizona Summit Law School (please feel free to pass it on to people who could benefit):

Arizona Summit Law School, a private law school located in downtown Phoenix, is hosting a one-day event to provide free legal information and limited-scope legal advice and assistance to people seeking help on matters related to family law, general business, probate and estate planning, and landlord/tenant disputes.

Susan Daicoff, director of legal clinics at Summit Law

Susan Daicoff, director of legal clinics at Summit Law

Approximately 50 Summit Law students, faculty, and alumni will be providing pro bono legal services; each student will be supervised by faculty or alumni who are practicing attorneys.  The school hopes to assist as many individuals as possible during its first Access to Justice Day.

“As we enter our tenth year, Arizona Summit Law School is excited to expand its work within our community,” said Susan Daicoff, director of legal clinics at Summit Law. “While our clinics have helped many clients over the years, from family law to our work at the Human Services Campus, this free day of legal assistance allows more of us to come together as a law school, to serve more people in our community who may not be able to afford legal advice.”

When: Friday, March 13, 2015, 10 am – 2 pm

Where: Arizona Summit Law School, 1 North Central Ave. in downtown Phoenix

Check-in will be held in the school’s lobby area where a pre-screening occurs. Individuals will then be guided to the appropriate station.

Spanish-speaking translators will be available.

Dean Shirley Mays Arizona Summit Law School

Dean Shirley Mays, Arizona Summit Law School

Individuals seeking assistance with complex issues requiring more than a short consultation will be referred to appropriate lawyers and organizations, including legal services agencies (community organizations who offer free or reduced-cost legal assistance), local attorneys, and Summit Law alumni.

“One of the pillars of our mission here at Summit Law is to serve the underserved,” said Arizona Summit Law Dean Shirley Mays. “For us, that means more than our efforts to diversify the legal profession by creating more opportunities for women and people of color to obtain a high quality legal education. That also means expanding our efforts to provide high quality legal information and advice to those in the community who might not otherwise have the financial circumstances to meet with a legal professional.”

For questions related to parking, directions or how the event will be structured, email Probono@azsummitlaw.edu. Note: No legal advice will be provided through this email address, and no information or legal matters will be reviewed in advance.

Ariz. Chief Justice Scott Bales

Ariz. Chief Justice Scott Bales

Here is some news from Community Legal Services, Phoenix:

On February 6, 2015, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales collaborated with members of the team at Community Legal Services (CLS) to discuss ideas to assist low-income Arizonans’ access to justice. Community Legal Services is a non-profit, civil legal aid program serving low-income persons in Maricopa, Mohave, La Paz, Yavapai and Yuma counties. Of primary consideration were the barriers to equal access to justice, including those litigants face prior to and during court.

This past year, Justice Scott Bales announced the formation of the Access to Justice Commission, headed by Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop. Justice Bales said that there have been significant successes in Arizona’s goal of increased access. This new commission is recognizing current challenges, and it will help to focus and achieve tailored plans for success.

The plight of accessing equal access to justice is an everyday occurrence at Community Legal Services, whose client community have legal problems in several areas of law, including family law, housing, consumer, employment, health and economic stability.

Community Legal Services logoJustice Bales discussed the goals of the Commission with CLS attorneys. Commission members are studying and will make recommendations on innovative ways to promote access to justice for individuals who cannot afford legal counsel and will evaluate best practices within Arizona and other states, identifying possible changes in court rules or practices designed to reduce barriers to access, identify and encourage the adoption of best practices among legal service providers, and consider potential long-term funding options.

This opportunity for Justice Bales to meet with CLS attorney staff was facilitated by Pamela Bridge, CLS Director of Litigation and Advocacy, who stated:

“Community Legal Services is extremely grateful for Chief Justice Bales’ dedication to improving access to justice in Arizona. We are excited to continue to collaborate with Chief Justice Bales and advocates throughout the state in order to work together to find meaningful, practical solutions to barriers to access to justice.”

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,877 other followers