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TN Lawyers Work For The Public Good

October 29, 2009

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Tennessee attorneys are joining thousands of attorneys across the country this week in recognition of National Pro Bono Celebration Week. Pro bono work - literally "for the good," meaning without compensation - showcases volunteerism and highlights the services of lawyers donating their time and expertise, and aims to recruit more legal volunteers.

Linda Warren Seely, director of pro bono projects for Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc. (MALSI), says providing legal services for people with limited incomes is part of a basic commitment to uphold the law.

"There's an incredible amount of need out there. We're really only able to meet about 40 percent of the requests that come in, and even out of that 40 percent, about 30 percent are served by volunteer attorneys."

While indigent people are entitled to free legal counsel involving criminal matters, Seely says the only recourse in civil court for people with lower incomes is through the efforts of attorneys who provide their services pro bono.

"These services are going to all the people who are being cut off of TennCare. What we try to do is help them and explain to them what's going on, help them with appeals; people who are being evicted from their homes. We match the clients with a volunteer attorney."

According to MALSI, when lawyers swear their oath to uphold the Constitution, they also promise to provide at least 50 hours of service to the poor each year.

Additional information is available at www.probono.net.

Randy O'Brien/Deb Courson, Public News Service - TN