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Access to Justice

The growing demand for access to justice for the poor increases the importance of encouraging attorney pro bono activity. Since rural practitioners often practice alone, or in small firms, they often do not have the resources available in urban areas and they routinely face difficulties when trying to meet their Continuing Legal Education requirements. Recognizing both the need for pro bono and the rural attorney's need for accessible Continuing Legal Education, the Center initiated its "Judges' Best Practices" Pro Bono/CLE Project in 2000.


As an accredited CLE provider, the Rural Law Center travels to rural counties statewide to deliver onsite, locally-specific and credit bearing programs. Each presentation is a partnership between the Rural Law Center, the local judiciary, the county bar association and the regional legal services provider. With the curriculum and materials designed and taught by local judges, these seminars typically focus on practice areas of Supreme Court, Family Court, County Court and Surrogate's Court. The Center has also provided Best Practices in areas of Elder Law, Domestic Violence, Special Education, Guardianship, Immigration Law, as well as Ethics.


This model works well to serve all the partners in this collaboration. Judges demonstrate their own courts' procedures and expectations, and in doing so, elevate the level of practice. Practicing attorneys receive information from the local courts. County bar associations have the benefit of networking. And, most importantly, attending attorneys (in lieu of registration fee) agree to provide pro bono services that are administered by the regional legal services program.


To date, over 2,575 attorneys from 38 rural counties have attended and made pro bono commitments of approximately 38,625 hrs. at a value of over $7,725,000. Attracting the attention of the American Bar Association, this program has been replicated in rural areas of Alaska, Texas, Florida and Maryland.









This communication is made available by the Rural Law Center of New York, Inc. as a public service and is issued to inform, not to advise.  No person should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of an attorney.  The opinions expressed in this communication are those of the authors and not of the Rural Law Center's funding sources.

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