Why is doing pro bono legal work important for both attorneys and law students? Most lawyers feel that practicing law is their job, a means to support themselves and their families. They believe that by providing a service to clients in exchange for a fee, discharges them from any obligation of doing additional legal work for free. I have often heard lawyers comment to me, “if I want to do charity, I will, but I do not want to feel obligated to do it.” Or, “if a baker bakes cookies all day, the last thing she wants to do is go bake cookies for free.” Of course, I understand, but I do not agree.
As a Florida injury attorney the practice of law and the privilege of being a member of the Florida Bar carries with it an additional obligation to be of service. The legal needs of many Americans are simply not being met. At a time when there are record numbers of unemployed lawyers, and especially recent law school graduates, I find it absolutely astonishing that such a tremendous demand cannot be satisfied with the overwhelming supply of talent.
Lawyers to the Rescue was created in 2010 by lawyers, in part, to help bridge that gap between need and help. Lawyers from various backgrounds, experience and specialties join together to create a team of passionate lawyers advocating for those in need.
Scott Kotler, a Miami criminal defense attorney is an excellent example. During the week, one can find Scott in court defending those accused in cases ranging from domestic abuse to murder. Yet, one weekend a month, he spends his Saturday morning at Miami’s Camillus House providing legal services to Miami’s homeless. I asked him why, when many lawyers head to play golf or tennis, he decides to spend it working for free. Mr. Kotler said that the time he spends working with Lawyers to the Rescue is often the most spiritually rewarding time of his week. He often brings his son to the homeless shelter who, with Scott and other lawyers and law students, prepares and serves meals to the homeless. Recently, for no fee at all, Scott was instrumental in helping a homeless woman obtain compensation that she was owed, which provided her the financial means to get off the streets and obtain housing.
Scott Kotler, serves as both a role model and a reminder to me and many lawyers as to why we went to law school in the first place. It is very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of law. When our Miami law firm helps somebody injured at a Publix we do not typically bill our clients by the hour for our work; but lawyers who operate hourly billing practices are often subject to enormous pressure to meet billing requirements. This often leaves them exhausted and depleted. Lawyers to the Rescue is, in essence, like Chicken Soup for the Soul of the depleted lawyer. I urge anyone who feels that they have lost their sense of purpose as an attorney to join Lawyers to the Rescue at one of their upcoming legal clinics or events.
On February 28, 2012, Lawyers to the Rescue and the University of Miami are hosting The Public Service Awards, a special event to honor members of South Florida’s legal community who serve as role models to lawyers for their devotion and passion for public service. Bennett Brumer, who served for decades as Miami-Dade’s Public Defender, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award to celebrate over 40 years of providing legal service to the poor. He stands along with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Judge Scott Bernstein, Attorney John Kozyak, Attorney Jessica Laleh and law student Dominick Lazerra as shining examples of how lawyers can be of service.
This Miami auto accident injury law firm believes it is more important than ever for the public to be reminded that lawyers can be the good guys and not just the punch line of jokes.