Translated from the Latin pro bono publico, “pro bono” means “for the public good.” In the legal profession, “pro bono” generally refers to providing free legal services to those who cannot afford such services and to charitable organizations, nonprofits, and other groups that work for the good of the general public. The Center for Arkansas Legal Services (CALS) is a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to low-income Arkansans in civil cases. CALS focuses on matters involving family law, housing law (landlord-tenant), domestic relations, consumer law, and public benefits law. While one in five Arkansans is eligible for legal aid, nearly 50% of those who apply for assistance must be turned away due to lack of resources.
The Bowen School of Law has formed a partnership with CALS so that Bowen students may volunteer at CALS and engage in pro bono representation under the supervision of CALS attorneys. Students who volunteer at CALS work directly with the attorneys in the office, assisting them in drafting pleadings, performing legal research, interviewing clients, investigating cases, and preparing for trials. Students also may observe courtroom proceedings.
Student volunteers at CALS also have the opportunity to assist in its outreach and community education efforts, by writing and updating factsheets on legal issues, updating the CALS Poverty Law Practice Manual, and assisting in the production of informational videos. Students also may participate in a live internet chat service that CALS provides through its website to help people find information relevant to their legal matters. Projects are available that can be completed both during regular business hours and on nights and weekends, so volunteer opportunities exist for both full-time and part-time students. In addition to the sense of personal satisfaction that comes from providing legal services to those in need, students who volunteer at CALS also gain valuable professional experience and have the opportunity to learn from dedicated and experienced attorneys.