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Lawyers come together to offer free legal aid

As tough economic times have made it harder for lawyers to offer free legal aid to the poor, lawyers across Ohio and the nation observed an annual event to boost pro bono activity.

Even before the official 2012 National Pro Bono Celebration week began Oct. 21, events occured across Ohio offering low-income Ohioans free legal help.

Legal aid societies, bar associations, and law schools hosted about 40 events in October on issues such as foreclosure, immigration, divorce, expungement, elder law, veterans and bankruptcy.

Now in its fourth year, the week underscored the difference that pro bono lawyers make to their communities, to the courts and the clients that are helped.

Statewide statistics on pro bono work in 2011 showed that the average number of pro bono hours performed by Ohio lawyers who took part in pro bono reporting was 55.3, which exceeds the American Bar Association’s national guideline of 50 hours per year.

Jane Taylor, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s Associate Director for Pro Bono, said the numbers were down slightly from 2010, but she said Ohio’s results mirrored national trends.

“There were continuing economic pressures on small law firms to bill more hours as well as new lawyers in big law firms to do the same,” she said. Taylor expects pro bono numbers to rebound in 2012, which will be the fifth year that the foundation has conducted the voluntary and anonymous reporting.

Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton served as honorary state chair for the 2012 celebration.

For more information on finding free legal help or volunteering pro bono services, visit www.ohiolegalservices.org.

Content courtesy of Court News Ohio.

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