How does a client’s case get referred to a network volunteer?
Potential clients contact the local legal services office with their legal problems. The client goes through an initial screening which determines financial eligibility (clients cannot have an income greater than 125% of poverty level or $27,563 annually for a family of four) and the merit of the case. After the initial screening, if the client is eligible for referral, the legal services agency will contact a pro bono attorney.
When I register to be a network volunteer, am I obliged to take cases?
We ask all volunteers to take one civil case per year. The needs are great and there are always more cases than available pro bono attorneys. However, you are not under obligation to say "yes" when you receive a call from one of our agencies if your workload is particularly heavy or the timing is just not right for you.
I do a lot of pro bono work in my practice. Does this mean I have fulfilled my network obligation?
The CBA commends this work and encourages all attorneys to perform public service in their communities. However, you have only fulfilled your obligation through our program if you are formally registered as a volunteer and accept pro bono cases through one of the agencies in our network. These agencies are: Statewide Legal Services; Connecticut Legal Services; Greater Hartford Legal Aid; New Haven Legal Assistance Association; AIDS Legal Network; Lawyers for Children America; CT Lawyers’ Legal Aid to the Elderly; CT Fair Housing Center; The International Institute of Connecticut; Pro Bono Partnership; Lawyers Without Borders; VITA and LITC Tax Programs, the Truancy Intervention Project; and the probate or bankruptcy courts.
I don’t have malpractice insurance. Can I still serve as a pro bono volunteer?
Attorneys who have their own malpractice insurance, either independently or through their firms, are generally covered for all legal services they provide, whether on a fee-based or pro bono basis. Consult your individual policy if you are unsure about the extent of your coverage.
Any attorney who does not have malpractice insurance is covered by a special endorsement on the lawyer’s personal liability policy of the legal services office through which he/she accepts a pro bono case. That endorsement covers any complaint which arises from a lawyer’s handling of the case within the statute of limitations. In order for a lawyer to be covered by the malpractice insurance of a legal services office, he/she must accept the case through a legal services referral. Attorneys who volunteer to serve as mentors or at the family law walk-in clinics or any other network-sponsored project are covered under the same malpractice insurance policy.
What kind of technical support can a volunteer expect?
Volunteers are offered a variety of support services to make their pro bono experience as hassle-free as possible. Since many of our volunteers are accepting cases in areas of law unfamiliar to them, our program offers free training seminars in many areas of law, including family, housing, social security, bankruptcy, immigration and consumer law.
If you are looking for a consultation about a pro bono case, you should first call the legal services agency from which you accepted the case. Either the referring attorney or another staff attorney will help you. We encourage you to request an attorney mentor if you feel that will help. Statewide Legal Services maintains a database of attorney mentors and can make arrangements for this valuable assistance.
I signed up with the Connecticut Pro Bono Network program last year. Do I need to renew my commitment and fill out a registration form every year?
No, you do not need to fill out a registration form every year. Your name remains in our database until you indicate you no longer wish to donate your legal services. Please call the CBA at (860)223-4400 if you have any information to update or change.