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Increasing access to justice: King County Council celebrates Pro Bono Week

Summary

Recognizing the efforts of volunteer attorneys

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council today proclaimed the week of October 23–29 as “Pro Bono Week” in honor of those who volunteer their time pro bono to provide legal services to individuals and families in need.

“Recognizing National Pro Bono week honors individuals, law firms, and organizations who work to serve those who lack access to legal assistance,” said Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn, co-sponsor of the proclamation. “It also reminds us as a region how crucial it is that we continue to support these efforts to increase access to justice.”

“Celebrating and honoring the tireless work by pro bono attorneys, on behalf of the most vulnerable in our community, has become one of my favorite annual traditions at the Council,” said proclamation co-sponsor Vice Chair Rod Dembowski. “When I was an attorney in private practice, I volunteered my time on a number of pro bono cases, including those on behalf of domestic violence survivors. The cases were some of the most difficult, yet most enriching experiences of my career, and have given me a deep appreciation for all attorneys in our community who volunteer to represent others.”

In 2015, over 327,000 hours of volunteer legal help was provided to individuals and families. According to a recent civil legal needs study commissioned by the Washington Supreme Court, seven in ten low income households in Washington State face at least one significant civil legal problem each year. Since 2003, the average number of legal problems per household has more than tripled.

Law schools throughout the state have developed a strong culture of service through pro bono programs that help provide their students gain real world experience. Private firms offer support to legal aid organizations through partnerships that encourage pro bono – which the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) and the King County Bar Association promote.

“Pro bono services and civil legal aid programs are vital to ensuring everyone has equal access to justice, not just those who can afford it,” said Jay Doran Communications & Advocacy Director for the Legal Foundation of Washington. “Legal aid can be the difference between homelessness and housing, bankruptcy and economic stability, and danger and safety. Access to legal aid helps people gain self-sufficiency, leads to be outcomes for families, and enhances the safety and strength of our communities.”

King County has stepped up to support legal services in recent years due to declining federal support and stagnant state funding. The County’s role has enabled legal aid organizations to leverage support through unique partnerships.

 


 

 

 10_24_probono_web
Representatives of King County’s legal community, including the
King County Bar Association, join
Councilmembers after the Council proclaimed
Oct. 23-29 as "Pro Bono" Week in King County in
recognition of the attorneys and legal staff who
volunteer their time to aid individuals and families in need

 

PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS, our justice system is founded on the fundamental principles of equity and fairness for all, and pro bono services grant individuals access to legal representation regardless of their means; and

WHEREAS, nearly three in four Washington residents face urgent civil legal issues each year, including issues related to health care, consumer and financial services, domestic violence, divorce, child custody, foreclosure, eviction, and abuse; but less than 25 percent receive legal assistance; and

WHEREAS, access to legal assistance can improve economic security and personal safety, protect civil liberties, and lead to a more just society; and

WHEREAS, legal services agencies, pro bono service programs, law-schools, the American Bar Association, the Washington State Bar Association, the King County Bar Association, local county bar associations, and private firms throughout the state have enlisted the services of volunteer attorneys to address the legal needs of low-income people; and

WHEREAS, all attorneys licensed in Washington State are encouraged to provide at least 30 hours of free legal services annually to those unable to obtain legal counsel; and

WHEREAS, in 2015, attorneys in Washington State provided over 327,933 hours in volunteer legal help to individuals and families;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, proclaim the week of October 23-29, 2016, as

PRO BONO WEEK

in King County to honor and thank the attorneys who volunteer their time and expertise to provide legal services to those in need.

DATED this this twenty-fourth day of October, 2016.

 

Contact the Council
Main phone:
206-477-1000
TTY/TDD:
206-296-1024
Fax:
206-296-0198