Pro Bono Efforts, Contributions up in Ohio

Pro bono contributions from attorneys to low-income Ohioans have increased across the board.

The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s (OLAF) latest report says the number of attorneys who worked pro bono increased from 2017 to 2018, as did the hours of service provided per attorney. Financial contributions also grew significantly.

OLAF teamed with the Ohio Supreme Court to find out how attorneys statewide stack up. According to the report, 4,665 attorneys participated in voluntary pro bono reporting in 2018, 32 percent more than the year before. Among the attorneys who reported, 68 percent stated they provided pro bono assistance – an increase of 13 percent. Read the rest of the story in Court News Ohio.

Legal Help Available for Ohioans Affected by Tornadoes

As a result of the tornadoes on May 27 – May 28, 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has declared a state of emergency in Greene, Mercer and Montgomery counties. Ohioans struggling with a legal issue as a result of the tornadoes can contact legal aid for help.

Common legal problems that can result from a natural disaster include:

  • Insurance questions
  • Landlord-tenant issues
  • Problems with lost documents
  • Scams and price-gouging related to rebuilding homes

Any Ohioan affected by the disaster can seek pro bono legal assistance by either:

Attorneys interested in providing pro bono service should contact Sophia Chang at (614) 715-8568.

Dayton Attorney Robert Curry Recognized for Improving Access to Justice

Robert Curry is the 2019 recipient of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Presidential Award for Pro Bono Service. The award, presented today during the Ohio State Bar Association Annual Meeting, is given annually to individuals, law firms or organizations that have made outstanding efforts in improving access to justice in Ohio.

“Bob exemplifies the legal profession’s ethical and moral obligation to work for the public good,” said Kim Shumate, president of the Foundation’s board. “By giving his time, energy and passion, Bob is addressing the great unmet need for civil legal help in Ohio.”

Curry, a partner in Thompson Hine’s real estate practice group and former partner-in-charge of the Dayton office, balances his professional responsibilities with a commitment to pro bono service.

Curry serves as board president for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) and Legal Aid of Western Ohio (LAWO), where he oversees legal services provided by both organizations. In 2017, he served as co-chair of ABLE and LAWO’s 50th anniversary campaign. His work was instrumental in raising more than $1.3 million dollars, which allowed for the expansion of civil legal assistance to Ohioans unable to afford an attorney.

In the year following the campaign, ABLE and LAWO served more than 19,000 Ohioans, including veterans, seniors, children and survivors of domestic violence who may otherwise have gone without legal help.

On top of the volunteer hours Curry devotes as board president, he generously gives his own time to serve as a pro bono attorney and encourages his fellow attorneys at Thompson Hine to volunteer. Because of Curry’s efforts and commitment to pro bono service, more Ohioans have achieved our nation’s promise of justice for all.

2019 Presidential Award nomination period is open

The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Presidential Award is presented annually to individuals, law firms, or organizations that have made outstanding efforts in improving access to justice in Ohio.

Past recipients include:

  • Luann Cooperrider and Hon. Dean Wilson (2018) for establishing the Perry County Free Legal Clinic in collaboration with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services;
  • John P. Gilligan (2017) for his service on the board of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and his effective fundraising and volunteer work for the organization;
  • Paul D. Hancock (2016) for his extraordinary individual volunteer efforts for the Legal Aid of Western Ohio; and
  • Colleen Falkowski (2015) for the creation of the first quarterly legal clinic held in Lake County Courthouse in collaboration with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

The nomination period for the award is now open.  To nominate an individual, law firm, or organization for outstanding efforts in improving access to justice in Ohio, please send an email to Sophia Chang at and include the following information:

  1. Name or names of the individual(s) or organization you are nominating;
  2. Your name, phone number, and email address; and
  3. A brief statement (no more than 250 words) describing why the individual(s) or organization should be selected.

You may submit more than one nomination, but please submit each nomination separately.  You may also submit letters of recommendation but they are not required.

The Foundation Board President will review all nominations and make a final selection.

The Award will be presented on the afternoon of Friday, May 10, 2019, during the Ohio State Bar Association Council of Delegates meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Nominations should be submitted by email to Sophia Chang at no later than Friday, March 15, 2019.

Support legal aid this #GivingTuesday

“I’m here, I didn’t forget you.”

For a domestic violence survivor Lucy Parker,* these words from her legal aid attorney brought comfort in the midst of trauma.

The mother of three young children, Lucy came to legal aid just days after she was released from the hospital. Although her husband had been abusing her for years, the most recent assault required emergency surgery to save her life. She was ready to escape her relationship and file for divorce, and her legal aid lawyer had the right tools to help.

Legal aid got her a divorce, helped her obtain full custody of her children, and secured child support. All along, her legal aid lawyer offered comfort and support, setting Lucy on the path to self-sufficiency and a new life free of fear.

This #GivingTuesday, supporters of Ohio’s legal aids can amplify donations to legal aid through The Columbus Foundation’s “Give Two on #GivingTuesday.”

Here’s how:

  • On Nov. 27, donate $20 or more to two nonprofits listed in The Columbus Foundation’s The Giving Store.
  • Select the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, The Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, or Advocates for Basic Legal Equality.
  • Receive a $20 Columbus Foundation Charitable Gift Card, redeemable at any of the 1,000+ organizations listed in The Giving Store.

“#GivingTuesday is a holiday tradition that really matters,” said Angie Lloyd, executive director of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. “By donating through The Columbus Foundation, together we can give the gift of justice for all this holiday season.”

Attorneys recognized for legal aid leadership and advocacy

Attorneys Pamela Hayman-Weaner and Gary Weston, both of Legal Aid of Western Ohio, are the 2018 co-recipients of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) Denis J. Murphy Award.

The Denis J. Murphy Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding leadership and advocacy within Ohio’s legal aids.

“We’re pleased to recognize legal aid attorneys who go above and beyond in improving access to justice for Ohioans struggling to make ends meet,” said Angie Lloyd, executive director of OLAF.

Hayman-Weaner has spent her career working with survivors of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and human trafficking. A skilled litigator and a tireless advocate for her clients, she has built strong coalitions to support domestic violence survivors.

Since 2006, Hayman-Weaner has led the Family Justice Center of Northwest Ohio, the first Family Justice Center to be based in a multi-county rural area and one of the few centered on the civil legal system. Under her leadership, Defiance County has been recognized as a model for community-based support and advocacy.

Gary Weston has been leading and managing legal service organizations, projects, and teams for more than 30 years. He has developed and implemented many innovative programs and partnerships at Legal Aid of Western Ohio to meet the legal needs of Ohioans struggling to make ends meet.
His most recent work involves helping seniors. He created and leads a project, “Plan Ahead and Protect Yourself,” that helps to combat elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Hundreds of “Plan Ahead” presentations have been made to seniors throughout the Dayton area, with follow up scheduled as-needed.

In 2006, Weston was the first recipient from the Miami Valley to receive the Distinguished Service Award from Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and Legal Aid of Western Ohio. In 2012, he was recognized as a Dayton Bar Association Foundation Life Fellow.

Clinic helps Ohioans get their driver’s licenses back

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Oct. 22, 2018) — More than 150 citizens with driver’s license suspension issues attended a Driver’s License Reinstatement Clinic on Friday, Oct. 19 at the Franklin County Judicial Center.

The Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk’s Office, Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), Legal Aid, and Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) partnered to provide guidance and assistance to those who qualified for driver’s license reinstatement services. In Franklin County alone, there are more than 370,000 drivers with suspended licenses. Across Ohio, there are approximately 3.3 million active license suspensions.

OLAF, Legal Aid, and OSBA offered free legal assistance, and volunteer attorneys helped participants navigate the step-by-step process. The Clerk’s Office accepted payments for court costs, fines, and provided access to the BMV online reinstatement website.

“Volunteering at the clinic was so satisfying for the attorneys,” said Angie Lloyd, executive director of OLAF. “People are thankful for the help, because getting their driver’s license back means they can get to work, school, and to doctor’s appointments.” For Ohioans who need to get to work, reliable transportation is crucial.

This clinic was a collaborative effort with AA Affordable Insurance, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Columbus City Prosecutor, Franklin County Child Support Enforcement, Franklin County Public Defender, Franklin County Job & Family Services, Franklin County Municipal Court Judges, and Franklin County Municipal Court Self-Help Center.

“Friday’s clinic was a great success and we would like to thank all for sparing their valuable time,” said Lori M. Tyack, Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk. “The clinic is a precursor to a larger BMV Driver’s License Reinstatement Workshop which will be held next spring on April 4, 5 and 6. The workshop will assist drivers in taking advantage of the BMV Amnesty Program included in House Bill 336.”

National Celebrate Pro Bono Week kicks off Oct. 21

Ten years ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, the American Bar Association created the National Celebration of Pro Bono, a week dedicated to recognizing pro bono attorneys and growing pro bono participation. Ohio attorneys such as Michael Sermersheim heeded the call to action, and volunteered legal help to those affected by the financial crisis, including Ohioans in danger of losing their homes.

“I had always felt the tug of pro bono work throughout my career, but I had a concern about the unknown,” Sermersheim said. “Community Legal Aid provided the training I needed to start taking on foreclosure cases.”

While the economy is much improved since 2009, there remains a substantial need for legal services for the more than 2.2 million Ohioans who qualify for civil legal aid. As the Tenth Annual Celebration of Pro Bono launches Oct. 21, private attorneys remain crucial to Ohio’s legal aids, who depend on volunteer service to help meet the civil legal needs of Ohioans struggling to make ends meet.

“Only lawyers solve legal problems,” said Angie Lloyd, executive director of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. “Through pro bono work, attorneys can make a life-changing difference for Ohio’s children, seniors, veterans, and families.”

Pro bono service can be as simple as volunteering at a brief advice clinic or it can involve accepting a case for extended representation. Throughout the process, volunteers can count on Ohio’s legal aids for training, mentoring, and support.

“Legal aid provides a wealth of resources for volunteers,” Sermersheim said. “When you don’t fully understand an area of the law, they are there to help and assist.”

Sermersheim was recently named Community Legal Aid’s 2018 Pro Bono Volunteer Attorney of the Year. He sticks with the work because he knows his efforts are making a difference.

“We get people that have faced hardships, and they feel that they’re not listened to or considered,” Sermersheim said. “They don’t have a voice in anything. Just giving them the time and the care is a kind gesture that is very helpful to them.”

Attorneys can search Ohio Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Opportunities Guide for clinics, trainings, and recognition events statewide throughout October. For information on volunteering year-round, contact the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s Pro Bono Director Sophia Chang.

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