The State Bar has had plans to create such a tool since last year. While Wisconsin Supreme Court rules encourage all Wisconsin attorneys to do 50 hours of pro bono legal work each year, many don’t know where to look for such volunteer opportunities.
“Civil legal aid programs in the state are telling us that pro bono assistance is crucial to making our shared goal of equal justice for all a reality,” said State Bar President Kathleen Brost.
With the pandemic, the professional association wanted to connect those eager for help with those eager to help. Students who have completed a certain amount of law school may practice if they are supervised by an attorney, and staff at the law schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marquette University have contacted Brown in search of opportunities for their students.
“It was just getting harder for folks to reach volunteers because you couldn’t do as much in-person outreach and networking,” Brown said. “This was a chance to reach people where they are at these days: on their computers and phones and tablets.”
It looked like it would take six months to a year to develop such a tool, but when Brown discovered the legal technology company Paladin, which would license the technology to the State Bar for a fee, it was just six weeks until the portal was ready.