May 2, 2010: Source: Maine Sunday Telegram | The nonprofits that deliver legal assistance to low-income people in need of services are quite admirable. This story from the Maine Sunday Telegram is about Courthouse Assistance Project created in 2007 by the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project in Maine. Going to court is an often frightening, disconcerting event for even the most knowledgeable of people. This program helps low-income people with family law issues such as divorces and custody disputes.
Volunteer lawyers—supplementing, not substituting for Legal Aid or Legal Services attorneys—make themselves available at various courthouses in Portland, Lewiston, and Biddeford on various days of the week to offer free advice. We’ve seen similar nonprofit efforts in the past, such as the Housing Court Task Force in New York City, and we can assure you that they are phenomenally valuable and appreciated.
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This is the kind of volunteering that works: volunteers bring a very needed service, skills that aren’t just available from anyone with a big heart. And there is a benefit to the volunteers themselves—not just the flowing endorphins from doing good. The participating pro bono lawyers get to practice real life law and improve their lawyering skills.
Congratulations to the Courthouse Assistance Project and the Volunteer Lawyers Project and all programs like this one for delivering a valuable public service and for demonstrating how volunteering in the nonprofit sector can and should work.—Rick Cohen