National Pro Bono Week 2022
Why Pro Bono Can Make a Difference
By Akil Roper, Vice President and Chief Counsel, Reentry
Throughout the pandemic, pro bono attorneys and volunteers gathered over Zoom for trainings run by Legal Services of New Jersey experts to learn how to help people expunge their criminal and juvenile records. The goal then and now remains the same—to help create life-changing opportunities for those facing employment discrimination because of a past criminal record.
Expungement is one of many areas in which pro bono attorneys can volunteer to provide assistance to those who do not have the means to afford legal representation, and really make a difference.
The need for pro bono in New Jersey remains high. Even though Legal Services staff are working long hours to help clients resolve civil legal issues, there still exists a troubling justice gap. According to the most recent published report, those in poverty may only get legal assistance for one in 10 of their civil legal problems. Many of those in poverty are people of color, who not only face employment barriers, but also suffer from disparities in income and wealth, housing, health and education. Simply put, justice remains out of reach—and disproportionately rendered—for far too many.
A key goal of our profession must be to help ensure equal justice for all. As the struggle for equal justice continues, there is an important role for pro bono attorneys and volunteers. In our learned experience, the private bar is filled with people who have a strong passion to give back to their communities and to help people in need. Creating pathways for unrepresented litigants to access justice is not only personally rewarding, but serving the public good upholds the values of justice and equality upon which the profession is built.
Ultimately, providing pro bono legal assistance is a fulfilling pathway to help create better outcomes for others. You might even get a call from a former client who you helped, who reports news of a landed job and a brighter future, personally thanking you for it.