Last month, the Alabama State Bar celebrated Pro Bono Month. Pro Bono in this context is the offering of free legal services to low income individuals. October was filled with events on almost every day, which included workshops for the elderly, homeless, clinics for legal issues sometimes encountered by low-income individuals such as eviction and domestic issues and even guidance for individuals that might represent themselves in District Court. These events were available all over the State.
Lawyer jokes have always been popular among non-lawyers and most of these jokes suggest that lawyers in general will go to unscrupulous levels to make financial gains. Certainly there are some attorneys that do very well financially and some lawsuits that one might read about seem frivolous. One of the popular lawsuits that seemed skewed involved the lady that spilled the hot coffee in her lap that she purchased at a fast food restaurant. When I had the opportunity to learn some of the details about this case I was surprised. The lady that was burned was a passenger in a vehicle with a family member and not the driver. When she spilled her coffee in the vehicle, they had pulled into a parking place. The spill did not occur while the vehicle was in motion. I also had the opportunity to see photographs of the burns sustained and they were truly terrible. If the lawsuit had not been brought then action would not have been taken to prevent future burns. It’s often easy to joke about lawyers until you need one.
The truth is many lawyers sign up to participate in either State Bar sponsored Pro Bono activities or sign up to participate in the programs sponsored by the Bar of some of the larger cities, such as Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery. Lawyers participate generally in areas of law that they specialize.
Another way that attorneys assist low income individuals is through some of the very law firms that people try to joke about. Think about it in that those that have the least assets have the least access to legal representation. Low income and less sophisticated individuals have always been more prone to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals and companies. Plaintiff firms generally provide legal assistance on a contingency basis to those that have been harmed whether it be an individual, a representative of someone badly injured, the heirs of one that wrongly dies or a group of people that suffer some great wrong.
Then there are lawyers that assist their family, friends, fellow parishioners or just people they meet that are down on their luck at little or no cost to these clients. You see, lawyers appreciate the education that they were able to achieve and see a responsibility to assist those that have less access to legal assistance.
I recently lost a friend who I was blessed to meet as a classmate in law school. Don was a police officer when he started law school and was looking at how he would spend the remainder of his work career and how he could best provide for his family. After Don left law enforcement, Don became very involved in his church. Don was a man of Faith and often assisted people he met with legal needs but also with other needs or things that Don felt would encourage them. You see, Don was a sheepdog. Sheepdog is a term that Sherriff Marshall wrote about in the October, Alabama Gazette. A sheepdog is a person that is not a member of the flock (sheep) or one that preys on the sheep (wolf). A sheepdog is one that protects the flock and that runs to the danger. Don protected his wife, daughters and grandsons and Don protected the sheep from the wolves. Desiring to contribute to my spiritual growth Don offered to sponsor me and allow me to participate in the Walk to Emmaus following his own experience. What a friend and brother in Christ that offers to stand in your stead and to watch over your family in your absence.
At Don’s funeral his wife told me that Don loved me as a friend. Guys don’t tend to use that “L” word when they talk about their male friends, but Don was man enough to confide his feelings with his wife and best friend, Judy. I shed a few tears as I listened to the pastor talk about Don. One story concerned a man that Don arrested who remarked that Don was the nicest police officer he had ever met. Don and Judy were inseparable in the nearly twenty years that I had to know them and it seemed they were always laughing.
My friend Don was not someone that needed to be “preached into Heaven”; Don was already there and will wait that short time for his family and friends to arrive. I believe that Jesus welcomed Don and said to him, “I know you. Well done my good and faithful servant”.
This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.
"No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."
Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq.
Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC
7956 Vaughn Road, Box #124
Montgomery, AL 36116