written by NITA Board Member Barbara Bergman
National Pro Bono Recognition week is October 19-25. As a result, this is a fitting time to reflect on NITA’s historic and continued commitment to pro bono and public service work. From its founding, NITA’s Board of Trustees and its staff have embraced public service as part of its mission. The first NITA programs included many lawyers who were either legal service attorneys or who actively represented pro bono clients. NITA continues to train those lawyers at its public and public service programs.
The Board of Trustees has chosen to make training attorneys and advocates who work with specific underserved communities a priority—including, but not limited to, areas such as legal aid, child advocacy, criminal law, tribal courts, and cases involving domestic violence. We do this through scholarships to public programs, NITA-funded public service programs, and working with local organizations to provide programs for those attorneys who serve these communities.
So far, in 2014, scholarships have been awarded to 94 attorneys in NITA public programs totaling over $100,000, enabling them to attend various NITA programs throughout the country. In addition, in 2014, over 500 participants were trained in NITA’s more specialized public service programs. Those programs included three child advocacy programs training 66 attorneys; two programs training 40 attorneys who do disability rights work; three legal services programs training 100 attorneys, two domestic violence programs training 56 attorneys, one death penalty program training 48 attorneys, a civil rights program training 32 attorneys, and three programs in conjunction with bar associations training an additional 56 attorneys. NITA has also sponsored teacher training programs for legal service and child advocacy attorneys, which were designed to enable those attorneys to return to their offices and train the attorneys with whom they worked to be more effective advocates. Finally, NITA is participating in advocacy training programs in Serbia, Singapore, Ireland, Kenya, and Japan. Overall, 150 individuals attended nine international programs.
Not only is NITA committed to training attorneys who give selflessly of their time and talents representing clients who are indigent, but in addition members of the NITA Board and staff continue to do pro bono work by volunteering for many service projects, including serving on boards, speaking and teaching, and working with service organizations.
During this Pro Bono Recognition Week, it is important to acknowledge the tremendous unmet need for legal services both in this country and internationally. It is equally important to recognize the dedication to pro bono work demonstrated by NITA’s staff, faculty, and Board.