About the Volunteer Lawyers Program
Since 1982, the Volunteer Lawyers Program has provided pro bono opportunities for attorneys who want to donate their time and share their expertise to help those in need in our community.
We collaborate with lawyers and organizations of all backgrounds, including but not limited to professional associations, law firms, the judiciary, and local bar sections and committees to offer a wide variety of pro bono projects.
We have a Volunteer Lawyers Program office in Clearwater, thanks to a partnership between Bay Area Legal and the Clearwater Bar Association. Our Northwest office provides pro bono services to the under-served residents of North Pinellas and West Pasco counties. Similar to our main office in Tampa, attorneys can donate their time and share their expertise to help residents of these counties.
The Volunteer Lawyers Program can help you find a volunteer opportunity to match your interest, skills, and availability. We offer training and mentoring to build your skills. We have opportunities that accommodate tight schedules. Whether you are a litigator, a transactional attorney, or a member of the judiciary, there is a pro bono project that is right for you.
We offer several benefits to our pro bono volunteers.
- The opportunity to expand your legal expertise or develop new legal skills
- Training, mentoring, and supervision available for many projects
- Clients are pre-screened for eligibility and claims are reviewed for merit
- Reimbursement provided for litigation costs and other case-related expenses
- Projects have been developed to address the legal needs of our community
- CLE credit provided for some training
- The opportunity to network within the legal community
- Liability insurance coverage provided
- Interpreters available for consultations, depositions, and court hearings
- An accounting of your pro bono hours is available for reporting to The Florida Bar
- Acknowledgment and recognition among your peers and the community
- The satisfaction of knowing you helped someone in need
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Florida attorneys required to provide pro bono service?
Florida Bar Rule 4-6 encourages members to provide pro bono legal services to the poor. The professional responsibility to provide pro bono assistance is aspirational, not mandatory. The Rule suggests that attorneys satisfy the responsibility by donating 20 hours or more annually or by donating $350 or more to a legal aid organization. Although there is no requirement that attorneys perform pro bono, all Bar members are asked to report their pro bono activity on their annual Bar dues statement.
If I help someone for free (they don’t pay the bill), isn’t that pro bono?
Pro bono service is legal assistance provided without charge or expectation of fees at the time the service commences. Legal services written off as a bad debt or a case in which an attorney cannot collect a fee do not qualify as pro bono.
What is the difference between community service and pro bono service?
Pro bono service involves the provision of free legal services. Attorneys that participate in bar association activities, volunteer to serve on the board of a nonprofit, or serve on a professional association’s board or committee are providing community or public service, unless they provide free legal assistance as part of their activities.
If I provide legal help to a nonprofit organization or community group, does it count as pro bono service?
Pro bono legal services to the poor are not limited to individuals. Providing free legal assistance to a charitable, religious, or educational organization, whose overall mission and activities are designed primarily to address the needs of the poor, counts as pro bono. You can volunteer to help local nonprofits and community groups through our Community Counsel Program (CCP).
Why should I participate in an organized pro bono program when I can do it on my own?
Legal aid providers and pro bono programs have developed pro bono projects to address the legal needs of the community. Clients are screened to ensure that they qualify for pro bono assistance and cases are assessed to confirm that they have merit. Many pro bono programs offer benefits to volunteer attorneys, including training, CLE credit, mentoring, and liability coverage. Programs collect and record the hours donated by volunteers and can provide this information to attorneys for reporting to the Bar.
What pro bono opportunities are available for transactional attorneys, corporate counsel, or government attorneys?
Volunteer Lawyers Program has a number of pro bono projects for attorneys who don’t do litigation, don’t want to handle a case, or may have a conflict with handling a litigation matter. Opportunities include Client Intake, CCP, Domestic Violence Assistance Project (DVAP), Family Forms Clinic (FFC), and Mentor Panel. Transactional attorneys can participate in the Case Referral Panel and receive referrals of real property, wills, trusts, guardianship, zoning, and other non-litigation matters.
What if I don’t have the time to provide pro bono assistance?
Volunteer Lawyers Program provides a variety of pro bono opportunities for attorneys who have limited time. If you have only an hour or two to spare each month, you can interview a legal aid applicant at Client Intake, help a pro se litigant with forms at the DVAP or FFC, or mentor a volunteer attorney or legal aid staff by telephone. Volunteers can participate in some pro bono projects during lunchtime, after work, or on weekends.
What if I don’t have the expertise to help indigent clients?
Many pro bono projects require little specialized expertise. Training is offered for some pro bono projects, including Client Intake, DVAP, and FFC, and projects are supervised by experienced legal aid staff attorneys. Less experienced attorneys who want to handle a case can be matched with a volunteer mentor.
Apply for Services
If you live or have a case in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas or Sarasota counties, we may be able to help.