LACBA's Domestic Violence Project Needs Your Help
As staggering as the numbers sound, however, LACBA volunteers do make a difference every day. During a three-hour shift, a single volunteer can help as many as three victims seek protection from their abuser. Collectively, volunteers donated nearly 7,300 hours of their time, valued at $1,888,935, by providing pro bono assistance last year.
In addition to interviewing clients and helping them complete legal documents to get their restraining orders—a necessary first step in handling domestic violence situations—volunteers meet with clients who return with follow-up questions concerning their existing orders or requests for extensions of their orders. The project also prepares victims for their hearings, assists them with interaction with local law enforcement, and provides them with contacts to local shelters for safety. All services are provided in English and Spanish.
While clients can find the process overwhelming and confusing, sitting down one-on-one with a real person who can help them directly is priceless.
"Volunteers are more than the backbone of the program, they are the very reason that the program works,” says Deborah Kelly, Domestic Violence Project Directing Attorney. “The generous gift of pro bono hours to LACBA's Domestic Violence Project enables the project to provide legal services to thousands of victims each year." See videos from clients here.
Home should be safe, not terrifying. Nationally, an estimated 11 percent of all people experience violence within their home. Domestic violence follows a pattern of assault and coercion—often including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion—that adults and adolescents impose against their intimate partners.
Volunteers find opportunities to develop their skills. Newer attorneys volunteer along side experienced ones, gaining expertise in an area of family law and developing skills that can be applied to their practice—while at the same time helping victims and their families gain protection against their abuser.
No previous experience in this area of law is necessary. Volunteers attend one evening training session, which provides 3 hours of CLE credit. The next training takes place on October 5.
Attorneys volunteer for two 3-hour commitments per month for six months. Volunteer hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to noon or 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
No ongoing representation is required, although volunteers have the option of representing their client at the time of the hearing.
The project, which began in 1986, is a joint collaboration with the Los Angeles Superior Court, which provides courtroom space for the project’s locations in the Central and Pasadena Districts, parking for volunteers, and assistance with the volunteer trainings.
“At the Domestic Violence Project, access to justice is more than a legal concept. It's real. We assist real people with life-threatening problems, and the rewards are many,” says Kelly. “The victim is empowered, his or her children receive protection, and the community benefits by the effort.”
1 Information collated from reports by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, Peace Over Violence (Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women), Surgeon General Reports, the U.S.D.A., and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.