What is the Connecticut Pro Bono Network?
Established in 1991, the Connecticut Pro Bono Network is a collaboration between Connecticut's legal services agencies and the CBA. Attorney and paralegal volunteers provide legal representation for low-income clients who are screened by a legal services agency and deemed eligible for pro bono services for their civil cases.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Connecticut Pro Bono Network
Why Should I Do Pro Bono Work?
Integrity: The Connecticut’s Rules of Professional Conduct do not require pro bono service, rather it is encouraged. Enhance the integrity of the legal profession by donating your legal services to those in need.
Enhance your knowledge of the law: Whether you participate in a clinic or take on a client’s case from beginning to end, you will receive the training and support to learn an area of law and enhance your practice skills.
Check Here for an Overview of Opportunities
Each opportunity below contains a hyperlink that will direct you to the agency Web site for more information.
Call4Law -Advise over the phone From the comfort of your own home or office you can participate in Call4Law. Be a volunteer attorney once or twice a month to provide one-hour telephonic consultations to pre-screened clients. Statewide Legal Services screens the callers, provides the training, malpractice insurance and resources to CBA’s attorney volunteers.
Participate in a Clinic: Don’t have the time to take a case from start to finish, but still would like to volunteer some time? How about participating in a clinic? At the Pro Bono Portal there are several clinics available.
1. Day Laborer Wage Clinics - Volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students prepare demand letters, draft small claims complaints and serve judgments on employers for unpaid wages. The Day Laborer Wage Clinic is usually held the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 6pm in Stamford through Connecticut Legal Services.
2. Security Deposit Clinic - Help a tenant fill out paperwork to proceed pro se on a small claim action against a landlord who has not returned the security deposit. The clinic is in New Haven on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. and in Hartford the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. and in Wethersfield on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
3. Family Law Clinic - The volunteer attorney will explain how to file for divorce, fill out necessary paperwork including: complaints, affidavits concerning children and explain how to serve the divorce paperwork on their spouse. Clinics are in New Haven on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m., in Middletown the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 9:30 a.m. and in Hartford on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m.
4. Preparing Individual Tax Returns - A volunteer law student, paralegal or attorney would prepare individual tax returns for low-to-moderate-income people. Tax Preparers must complete the provided 12-16 hour training (online or in-classroom) covering tax law, ethics, and use of the tax prep software, and must pass a certification exam. Certification is required by the IRS of all VITA volunteer tax preparers regardless of their previous experience or education. The services are provided through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). VITA locations are statewide.
Full Representation of a Client
At the Pro Bono Portal there are several opportunities available to take a case in a particular area of the law.
1. Tax Issue - University of Connecticut School of Law Tax Referral. In order to be eligible for services at UConn, prospective clients with tax issues must meet income guidelines. If an individual does not meet the guideline then a CBA pro bono attorney will be referred the case. The department at UConn will provide the pro bono attorney with support if there are any questions along the way.
2. Veteran Assistance - The Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) conducts intakes, assesses cases, refers cases to volunteer attorneys, and provides assistance to the volunteers who take veteran benefit cases. An attorney must be accredited by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in order to assist a claimant. Trainings for accreditation will take place at the CBA on October 5, 2012.
3. Assist a Non-Profit - The Pro Bono Partnership assist non-profits with their business legal needs, whether it be creating and reviewing bylaws, employment issues, tax issues or anything else relating to the non-profit.
4. School Attendance and related issues - The Truancy Intervention Project will train the attorney and refer a child to that attorney. The Truancy Intervention Project focuses more on mentoring at risk students before further issues develop. The attorney identifies needs in the child’s life that are contributing to the child’s truancy and will assist in locating resources to meet those needs. The attorney could represent the student in hearings or court proceedings and advocate for services and programs.
5. Juvenile Law - Lawyers For Children America/ represents children at Juvenile Court proceedings and DCF administrative hearings. In order to assist this organization the attorney must take part in training.
6. HIV/AIDS Client - The AIDS Legal Network is for people living with HIV/AIDS in Connecticut who seek advice, legal information and referrals for representation.
7. Bankruptcy, Power of Attorney, Wills, Housing, School Expulsion, Unemployment, Family, Elder, Housing and many more legal issues - Statewide Legal Services could use your knowledge and services for the variety of services they provide to clients who need help in these areas of the law.
8. In-office Volunteers - (Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and New Haven Legal Assistance Association) Interested in helping low-income people facing civil legal crises? The cases range from denial of government assistance; refusal of medical treatment; problems of disabled children; problems of the elderly; domestic violence; issues relating to disability; and housing issues.
Trainings and Community Service
Not all pro bono service needs to be done through the Pro Bono Network. There are a variety of other ways to serve the profession and those in need. Click the link above to view a sampling of recent efforts.
CBA’s Estate Planning Workshop for Veterans and their Families:
The CBA held a two-part workshop to assist veterans with their estate planning at the Danbury Veterans Center on July 10 and 31. The workshop was organized with the help of experienced attorneys in the CBA Estates and Probate Section, Elder Law Section, and in conjunction with the CBA Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. The purpose of the workshop was to provide veterans and their spouses help with the preparation of estate planning documents which included a will, living will/health care directive, and/or power of attorney.
During part one of the workshop on July 10, a brief introduction of the program was provided by Attorneys Sharon Pope and Matt Stillman. The remainder of the day entailed the volunteers meeting with their assigned veteran to review estate planning wishes, including applicable benefits the veterans or their spouses may be entitled to, and creating the estate planning documents. During part two of the workshop on July 31, the volunteers returned to meet with the veterans to review the estate plan and sign the documents.
The estate planning workshop was a great success, and the CBA Estates and Probate and Elder Law Sections will host future workshops in other parts of the state.
Discharge Upgrades Training:
The CBA Veterans and Military Affairs Committee hosted a training open to all CBA members interested in serving our veterans and included a presentation by Margaret Middleton, Executive Director of Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. The one hour training was held on October 8, 2013.
Most soldiers receive an "honorable" discharge when they leave the military. A classification that is not “Honorable” often prevents a veteran from receiving VA educational, medical, or pension benefits and may limit his or her civilian employability. For some soldiers, this characterization can be a result of actions symptomatic of PTSD or traumatic brain injuries, meaning that the soldiers most in need of VA services may be turned away. Connecticut Veterans Legal Center Executive Director Margaret Middleton will train volunteers interested taking pro bono cases for veterans to upgrade Other Than Honorable Discharges. The training will educate volunteer attorneys on administrative discharges from the military and available remedies for changing discharge characterizations, and will provide a step-by-step approach to representing veterans seeking discharge upgrades.
Secretary’s Legal Assistance Project: The Connecticut Bar Association partnered with Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on the “Secretary’s Legal Assistance Project” (SLAP). Approximately 95 lawyer-volunteers were trained to be on call during voting hours on Election Day. These attorney volunteers enabled the Secretary of the State to have trained neutral, nonpartisan individuals who could be dispatched to polling places and report to her office as needed. SLAP was a great success and will be repeated. Be sure to check back for information on this year’s program.
Disaster Assistance Hotlines: Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy this fall, the CBA activated two disaster assistance hotlines and received an outstanding response to that service.
One hotline was established through the cooperation of the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) and the Connecticut Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (CBA-YLS) in conjunction with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABAYLD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The toll-free disaster relief hotline assists persons who live in Connecticut who are affected by the severe storms and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy on October 29 and October 30, 2012. Hurricane victims who cannot afford legal representation and live in Connecticut were encouraged to call the hotline.
The other hotline, the Disaster Insurance Hotline, established by the CBA’s Insurance Law Section and provides free legal advice to individuals and businesses in need of guidance about insurance claims for property damage after a storm or other disaster. The hotline was established following Hurricane Irene and is reactivated as needed.
Stand Down: Stand Down is a military term originating from times of war when exhausted combat troops were given the opportunity to return to a place of relative security to rest and recover. Stand Downs today have become common as a means to care for and advocate for homeless veterans.
Photo Caption:John R. Logan, Winona W. Zimberlin, CBA Past President Francis J. Brady, Sarah Poriss, and Kathleen M. Grover were among the attorneys helping veterans at the CBA booth at the 2012 Stand Down.
The Department Of Veterans Affairs organizes Stand Down events to provide services to homeless veterans such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment.
The 2012 and 2013 Stand Downs took place at the Connecticut Veterans Home in Rocky Hill. Attorneys gathered at the CBA booth answer veterans’ questions on issues, including housing, finance, and employment. In 2013, CBA members were able to assist 87 veterans during this event.
VA Benefits Training: The Connecticut Bar Association's Veterans Task Force hosted its 2012 VA Benefits Training on October 5. The training helped fulfill the Department of Veterans Affairs' CLE requirement for previously accredited and newly accredited attorneys to represent clients in veterans' benefits.
Allen Gumpenberger, director of veterans' advocacy at Alpha Veteran's Disability Advocates, led the training. He explained how the attorneys can help provide legal services to veterans with disability and related claims before the Veterans Administration in addition to providing legal assistance in the more traditional areas of family law, housing law, and employment law matters. Be sure to check back for information on next year’s event.
Connecticut Innocence Fund: The Paralegals Section of the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) co-hosted a reception with the Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellows on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at the University of Connecticut William F. Starr Hall Reading Room to benefit the Connecticut Innocence Fund.
The event featured a silent auction as well as a panel discussion moderated by Brad Saxton with Kevin T. Kane, Chief State’s Attorney, Capt. Patrick O’Hara, Connecticut State Police, Lisa J. Steele, Steele & Associates, Fadia M. Narchet, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, University of New Haven and Kenneth Ireland, a recent exoneree. All monies obtained from the event were donated to the Connecticut Innocence Fund, through the CT Bar Foundation.
The Connecticut Innocence Fund is a fund that has been created to assist those persons who were exonerated after being wrongfully convicted. The fund provides them with a loan to help them get back into the mainstream of life upon their release from prison. These monies will be repaid by the recipient when they receive compensation from the state for their wrongful imprisonment.
Being released from prison after being incarcerated for a long period of time sets up many obstacles for the person who has been released to do the things that we take for granted as part of a normal life, such as renting an apartment or obtaining an auto, all things which require a credit history which they cannot produce. The monies loaned from the fund will provide them with the means to re-acclimate to life while they are waiting for their state-funded damages compensation for their wrongful imprisonment. The fund will become self-sustaining as the monies are repaid.
Pro Bono Initiative: A New Take: The Connecticut Judicial Branch Pro Bono Committee, Connecticut Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, and the Connecticut Bar Foundation hosted Pro Bono Initiative: A New Take on November 14, 2012 at Yale Law School in New Haven.
The initiative included remarks by Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, the annual Pro Bono Fair and a screening of the award-winning and compelling movie, Crime After Crime which tells the dramatic story of the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence who spent more than 26 years in prison. Her story takes an unexpected turn two decades later when two rookie land-use attorneys step forward to take her case. Through their perseverance, they bring to light long-lost witnesses, new testimonies from the men who committed the murder, and proof of perjured evidence. Their investigation ultimately attracts global attention to victims of wrongful incarceration and abuse, and becomes a matter of life and death once more.
Photo Caption: (from left to right) Nadia Costa pro bono attorney for Debbie Peagler, Jonathan M. Shapiro, Chair of the Young Lawyers Section, Sylvia K. Rutkowska, Public Service/Special Projects Director of the Young Lawyers Section, Honorable William H. Bright, Jr., Chair of the Judicial Branch’s Pro Bono Committee and Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers.
“If anyone out there wonders whether a need for pro bono work exists, I can assure you that it does and that it continues to grow. In fact, there has been a staggering growth in the number of people who represent themselves in family matters” said Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers.
A Q&A session was held following the screening with Nadia Costa and Joshua Safran, the two pro bono attorneys featured in the film as well as Debbie Peagler’s daughter Natasha Wilson. All three shared their insights on the case and how it, as well as Debbie, personally impacted them. They also expressed the value of doing pro bono work and the importance for attorneys to volunteer their time.
The following agencies/programs comprise Connecticut Pro Bono Network:
Statewide Legal Services
Connecticut Legal Services
Greater Hartford Legal Aid
New Haven Legal Assistance Association
AIDS Legal Network
Lawyers For Children America
Connecticut Lawyers' Legal Aid to the Elderly
Connecticut Fair Housing Center
International Institute of CT
Pro Bono Partnership
Lawyers without Borders Connecticut Probate Courts
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC)
Truancy Intervention Project
Connecticut Veterans Legal Center
Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS)
When you accept a pro bono case to represent an income-eligible client through any of these agencies/programs, you are entitled to take advantage of all support services and benefits that their program offers. These benefits include: malpractice coverage for the pro bono cases, free trainings, and experienced attorneys to mentor you. To sign up to volunteer and join over 4,000 Connecticut attorneys and paralegals who volunteer through the Connecticut Pro Bono Network program please visit: http://probono.ctlawhelp.org/