“With the opening of the Self-Represented Legal Services Project at Brooklyn Family Court, for the first time in New York State, low-income litigants in Family Court who do not have an attorney will be able to obtain free legal advice from pro bono attorneys right in the courthouse. Attorneys from local New York City law firms and corporations, who have completed special training provided by the court system, will conduct free on-the-spot consultations with families in need of legal services who cannot afford to pay for them. This is an initiative of the Hon. Joseph M. Lauria, Administrative Judge of the New York City Family Court, in collaboration with the Honorable Juanita Bing Newton, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives. The project furthers the goal of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye of providing valuable legal services to court users who are unable to afford attorneys by partnering with the city’s major law firms and corporations. . . .
“The project will be supervised by a full-time court attorney, who is available five days a week to provide general court information to litigants starting this month. Beginning November 2, 2006, pro bono attorneys will be on site Tuesdays and Thursdays to provide legal advice to families involved in child support, paternity and guardianship cases. Assistance with other types of cases (beyond child support, paternity and guardianship) will be offered after the initial six months. Several New York City law firms and corporations are assisting in this new initiative by offering the services of their legal staff. The law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, has taken a leadership role in this project, with attorneys from Citigroup; Strook & Strook & Lavan LLP; Reed Smith LLP; Dechert LLP, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe also participating.”
It goes without saying (again), but we’re saying it nonetheless: Helping pro se litigants is an especially effective way to use the legal profession’s scarce pro bono resources. Most Family Court litigants do not need a lawyer through every step of the process (in fact, lawyers often complicate, aggravate and prolong the process) — but, they can often use well-focused legal assistance. Pro bono projects, like the one at the Brooklyn Family Court, greatly leverage pro bono efforts.