By Lauren Dickey
“We often think and talk about pro bono work as a service to the greater good and to our community. But even the biggest public impact cases require us to advocate not for the public, but for the rights of our specific clients.
The words we have chosen to describe volunteering to fight for the rights of individuals, ‘pro bono publico,’ confirm a belief that the public good is best served by protection and advocacy of individuals. That fighting for the rights of specific people is the best way to protect the rights of us all. Fighting for the liberty of some is fighting for the liberty of all.
Pro bono work not only improves the lives of our clients and the greater public, it improves our profession. On a practical level, it gives lawyers an opportunity to stretch and hone our advocacy. More importantly, it raises our profession. It confirms that justice and the law are not limited to those who can afford a lawyer, but that our legal system is open and available to all.”
These are the words of John McHugh, recipient of the 2015 Denver Bar Association’s “Volunteer of the Year” award, who spent hundreds of hours as the lead attorney on a lawsuit challenging Colorado’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. During this year’s Pro Bono Week (September 14-18), the DBA’s Access to Justice Committee wants to celebrate the work of volunteers like John McHugh and highlight opportunities for Denver-area lawyers to help expand access to justice in their own communities.
On September 15 at 4:00 p.m., as part of the monthly Legal Night event at Mi Casa Resource Center, lawyers are invited to attend a family law CLE designed to train non-family law attorneys. Attorneys from the Harris Law Firm will instruct Legal Night volunteers on how to identify and provide information on family law issues. The event is co-sponsored by the ATJ Committee and the Colorado Lawyers Committee and is free for all who stay and volunteer at Legal Night. To RSVP to this CLE, please email email@example.com. This program will also be recorded for those observing Rosh Hashanah; contact Meghan Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Committee invites all lawyers to participate in Legal Night at Mi Casa beginning at 5:30 p.m. on September 15. Legal Night is an open house where volunteer attorneys provide free legal and referral information on a variety of subjects to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Attorneys interested in volunteering may contact Susan Cole at Susan.Cole@aporter.com or visit the Colorado Lawyers Committee website at coloradolawyerscommittee.org to fill out an online volunteer form.
Finally, at noon on September 16, DU Law will host a luncheon and panel discussion exploring the importance of pro bono work during and after law school. Colorado Supreme Court Justice William W. Hood, III, Metro Volunteer Lawyers’ Executive Director Dianne A. Pacheco-Van Voorhees, CBA President Loren Brown, DBA Access to Justice Committee Co-Chair Noah Patterson and Disability Law Colorado Supervising Attorney Alison Daniels will discuss the critical role of pro bono work in the community.
Pro Bono Week is an opportunity for lawyers to explore pro bono options in the Denver area and to get involved in the community. We encourage everyone to take part!
Lauren Dickey came to Colorado three years ago for a clerkship and never left. She is now an attorney in the Consumer Protection Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and a member of the Denver Access to Justice Committee.
The Denver Access to Justice (ATJ) Committee is comprised of Denver-area lawyers committed to helping underrepresented individuals secure legal information, advice, and representation. The Committee sponsors clinics providing “how-to” advice on topics like small claims, bankruptcy and family law, co-sponsors bimonthly legal nights, hosts CLEs and provides support for Metro Volunteer Lawyers and Colorado Legal Services. It is the local chapter of the statewide Access to Justice Commission and meets monthly at the bar association offices. For more information, contact Co-Chairs Noah Patterson at email@example.com and Jennifer Purrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously published in The Docket.