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Pro Bono 2011

A 2011 special report

Joe Morrey, an attorney from St. Joseph, stands last week near the ruins of a block in Joplin. He was among members of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys to provide disaster legal services following the May 22 tornado. “I think there’s a desire to help right this place,” Morrey says. Photo by Scott Lauck

When we set out to report our annual look at pro bono efforts, we knew this would be a challenging year. Slimmed-down law firms are looking for ways to make their bottom lines work . But we also knew that Missouri attorneys continue to pitch in where possible. So we returned to Joplin and checked in on continuing efforts by Legal Services. But we also profiled some efforts that aren’t as well known, like the Migrant Farmworkers Project and the Freedom Center.

Volunteer attorneys still answer Joplin’s calls for help: Three months after a massive tornado destroyed a wide swath of Joplin, volunteer attorneys are still fielding phone calls and traveling to the city to help residents sort out the legal issues that arise in the wake of catastrophe.

Several factors motivate lawyers to do pro bono work: Why, in a profession that still bills largely by the hour, do lawyers agree to work for free?

50: Pro bono’s magic number: The American Bar Association encourages each lawyer to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services a year.

Lawyer reunites internationally abducted children with their families: Christopher Schmidt has carved out a niche in the Bryan Cave’s pro bono efforts

Legal Aid of Western Missouri aids migrant fruit-pickers: When attorney Suzanne Gladney surveys her field of prospective clients, she doesn’t see a field at all. She sees an apple orchard.

Focus on billable work affects pro bono time: Pro bono time took a hit in 2010 as law offices downsized and focused on billable hours, but it could have been much worse.

With leap of faith, couple opens legal center: Since Dave and Jenifer Roland opened the Freedom Center of Missouri in October, they’ve represented clients in three notable cases, and Dave likely has racked up more than 1,200 hours of pro bono legal work

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