Executive Summary: The ways lawyers care
Vol. 77, No. 5/ Sept. - Oct. 2021
Mischa Buford Epps
Mischa Buford Epps is executive director of The Missouri Bar.
In recent months, we’ve been inundated with tragic news, from violent storms and fires ravishing neighborhoods to a virus variant that’s overwhelmed hospitals in Missouri and across the nation. In many of these moments, the public looked to lawyers who cared to step in and assist those in need.
In October, The Missouri Bar observes National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, a chance to show volunteers how much their service and time spent assisting the vulnerable matters. Each year, Missouri lawyers provide thousands of hours of pro bono legal services, demonstrating the commitment you, our members, have to equal access to justice for all. Every minute makes a difference.
We have the exciting opportunity to celebrate some of the lawyers who are impacting their communities through pro bono work. This year, we honor Will Goldstein, Tamar E. Hodges, Roland B. Miller III, Erica Mynarich, and Patricia D. Perkins with Pro Bono Publico Awards. I encourage you to visit MoBar.org and learn more about their inspiring efforts and accomplishments. More than that, I encourage you to emulate them.
In addition to positively impacting society, spending time helping someone in need – while expecting nothing in return – can improve our own well-being and lighten our mental load. In 2020, Cleveland Clinic shared that helping someone can lower our blood pressure, reduce depression, and lower stress levels, among other health benefits.2
Pro bono looks different for each of us. Some lawyers take time out of their weekends and evenings to work on cases for clients with little or no means to pay. Others have devoted their entire careers to assisting indigent individuals. In 2017, we partnered with the American Bar Association to launch Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org. Perhaps you’ve heard public service announcements about this program on the radio. Through the website, which functions like a virtual walk-in legal clinic, low-income Missourians can ask up to three non-criminal legal questions per year. Lawyer volunteers can then access the website and answer these pending questions. There’s no expectation for continued representation, and clients will only learn lawyers’ identities with permission. In the past 18 months, family law matters have made up more than 30% of the submitted concerns. The next most-common questions involved landlord/tenant matters. Since the website’s launch, about 200 lawyers have registered to assist in answering queries. This year alone, volunteers have helped more than 1,450 clients. And in total, more than 7,100 questions have been answered since Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org launched. Missouri boasts a 90% response rate for questions compared to the national average of 70%. Yet again, a testament to our members’ passion for pro bono.
In times of struggle and turmoil, the public often looks to lawyers. And Missouri lawyers help.
If you’re looking for more ways to give back through pro bono, you can find options and resources on our website. If you want to highlight pro bono work you or your law firm have provided, share it on social media with #MOLawyersHelp and your post may be featured on The Missouri Bar’s social media and blog.
Thank you to those who lend a supportive hand; your actions have more of a ripple effect than you will likely ever realize.
1 Mischa Buford Epps is executive director of The Missouri Bar.
2 Why Giving Is Good for Your Health, Cleveland Clinic: Health Essentials (Oct. 28, 2020), https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/.