[Adapted and Reprinted from San Francisco Attorney, Summer 2018]
We know that law is a challenging profession and it can take a toll on your physical and emotional health, but volunteering even just a little bit of your time will bring you emotional satisfaction and balance. Call it pro bono for the soul.
Now, you are a lawyer. As such, chances also are that you are busy—really busy—with a full schedule. We understand that you may not have time to build a new program, figure out what your various options are, or even explore where to begin in the first place. The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) has already done all of this for you.
This month, we are highlighting one example:
Consumer Debt Defense and Education Clinics
Aggressive and unfair debt collection practices can have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our city. Again, under expert supervision, lawyers in this program counsel clients one-on-one about the cases filed against them, often by third-party debt buyers who ignore procedural protections for consumers. You will advise these people on their rights and options and then draft basic, preliminary documents for them to file pro per.
Just this basic effort makes a huge impact for people who would otherwise wade through litigation alone and intimidated. Once again, no expertise is needed, and your mere presence as a lawyer will make a huge difference. The stark reality is that many of our most vulnerable neighbors face civil proceedings with no counsel, and when they have counsel, they simply fare better.
What will it take? Three hours at JDC’s clinics after three hours of initial training.
Upcoming Consumer Law trainings:
To sign up or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, since you are a lawyer, we will cover some of the technicalities here just so there are no questions (or excuses):
JDC has malpractice insurance for its volunteers. JDC also provides training and constant support for its volunteers. And, you can rest assured that you will not be the first person to volunteer for these programs, and they have been running successfully for years.
The upshot is this: your community needs you, and we have ready-made opportunities for you to help your fellow San Franciscans and yourself in the process. Just show up, learn a little, and do what you do every day: advocate for a deserving client.
Malcolm A. Heinicke is the 2018 president of the Bar Association of San Francisco and the Justice & Diversity Center. A partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, his practice focuses on employment and complex commercial litigation, particularly in class and collective actions and employee mobility matters.