Pro Bono Conference Examines Ways Lawyers Can Help

NEW BRUNSWICK–Lawyers from across the legal community will come together next week for the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Conference.

This event, held on Tuesday, Oct. 30, offers the unique chance for hundreds of attorneys to explore many facets of improving the delivery of pro bono service, as well as recognize those lawyers and organizations that have given back to the community.

“Every lawyer, regardless of where they practice, can make a difference, and we want to encourage and recognize them,” said Kevin P. McCann, president of the New Jersey State Bar Association.

The conference is one of 700 events included in the annual National Pro Bono Celebration, sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

At the event, Judge Glenn A. Grant, the acting administrative director of the Judiciary, will serve as the keynote speaker. The program offers break-out sessions for in-depth exploration of key issues, and will include a discussion of the findings of the association’s Pro Bono Task Force, featuring the association’s immediate past president Susan A. Feeney The task force examined the pro bono landscape with the eye toward increasing the number of lawyers extending help to those in need.

“With the goal of increasing pro bono legal services by the private bar, this event is meant to bring together resources, information and opportunity to meet representatives of legal services provider organizations at this conference,” said Nancy Eberhardt and Brenda Liss, co-chairs of the state bar association’s Pro Bono Committee. “Pro bono legal services are even more critical to the public at this time of economic hardship. Conference attendees will leave with a vision of how they can incorporate pro bono work into their practices, as well as practical tools and contacts with pro bono providers to help them do so.”

The conference will also include the presentation of the association’s annual Pro Bono Awards. This year’s winners are:

  • Gerard Brew is a partner at McCarter & English specializing in trusts and estates. He supervises a diverse docket of pro bono matters, including the firm’s two-year-old domestic violence project.
  • Mary Ellen Koscs-Fleming. She left Merck & Co., Inc. in 2004, but continued to volunteer for Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, where she had long worked with the company’s pro bono lawyers. She represents low-income tenants who have been summoned to court and face homelessness.
  • Partners for Women and Justice in Montclair was founded in 2002 to help victims of domestic violence. Its staff of two attorneys and about 135 volunteer attorneys, work closely with the Rachel Coalition in Florham Park, a social service group. Most of the work involves obtaining restraining orders for low-income women. Co-founder Jane Hanson recruits most of her volunteers from larger firms in the area.
  • Gibbons P.C. employs full-time pro bono attorneys through its John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest & Constitutional Law, which was founded 22 years ago. This year the firm is expanding the numbers of fellows to three. Referrals come from partner organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey or The Innocence Project, through the courts, or from individuals.

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