Attorneys mark pro bono week

Published 1:51 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

Today marks the last day of the 2011 pro bono week, proclaimed locally by the Andalusia City Council, and designed to encourage attorneys to provide volunteer legal help.

John Peek, who serves as bar commissioner for the 22nd Judicial Circuit, said about 14 percent of the members of the Covington County Bar Association participate in the state bar’s Volunteer Lawyer’s Program (VLP), which provides legal assistance in civil matters.

Peek explained that the Alabama residents can call the toll-free VLP line, and the state bar does some filtering work to make sure there is a genuine need.

“Then they go to the list of people who have agreed to participate in the VLP, pull someone, and match them up.

Participating attorneys only have to agree to accept two VLP assignments per year, he said.

Given the current state of the economy, he said, there is a big push for pro bono work by the state bar association.

“This is literally Judge (Harold) Albritton’s baby,” Peek said, referring to the U.S. District Judge and Andalusia native. “He worked hard to promote this when he was state bar president.”

Just this month, the state bar announced it was naming an annual pro bono award for him, and presenting the first award to him.

“With the state of the economy, along with revenue cuts to legal service organizations, there are more people needing services and less ability of the system to provide those services.

“So we have to call on the Atticus Fitch model, and call on the person willing with help with no promise of recompense,” he said.

Peek said while not all of Covington County’s attorneys are officially listed with the VLP, most all of them do pro bono work.

“It is simply the most fulfilling work you can do, to reach down and pick somebody up and dust them off,” Peek said.

The VLP may be reached at 1-800-354-6154.