April 06, 2017
Legal Aid of West Virginia's Wheeling office is fortunate to have a local bar dedicated to pro bono representation of clients who might not otherwise be able to pay for legal services. In 2016, Wheeling’s pro bono program served approximately 200 clients, and that would not have been possible without the Ohio County Bar Association’s (OCBA) commitment to encouraging its members to participate. The OCBA and its members deserve no end of credit for consistently coming into our office to advise folks who need help, and often taking on cases for full representation.
Of course, Wheeling’s pro bono program would not be what it is without our own Robin Lucas, who has steered the program effectively for years. Robin is the face of the program, and even more, the steady contact point among Legal Aid, the local bar, and the extraordinary number of clients our pro bono program serves.
The obvious and fundamental benefit of our active pro bono program is the expansion of the number of clients with access to legal services. Another important benefit that might not get the consideration it deserves is the connection the program forges between Legal Aid and the local bar. The more integrated we are with our community as a whole, the better we can assess and meet our clients’ needs and the needs of that community, and a solid relationship with the local bar goes a long way toward that end.
One way in which Legal Aid as an organization is working to improve its already-effective pro bono efforts is through the pro bono portal that Kate White and others have developed. The portal provides a number of tools for lawyers generous enough to volunteer for pro bono service, including online training classrooms to help familiarize them with substantive areas of law and issues that arise regularly in the types of cases they handle through the program. The portal is one more connection joining Legal Aid and local bars around West Virginia.