Is Pro Bono A Cure, Or Just A Bandaid?

by Baker Donelson
Contact

Law without justice is a wound without a cure.

 ~ William Scott Downey

We live in a very superficial culture, especially when it comes taking care of things that are hard, or expensive. Or things that can't be fixed overnight. We like instant gratification. We like to congratulate ourselves for a job well done and walk away.

Our nation's veterans are a good example of what I mean. While on the surface our culture and our national politics are all about how we revere and support our troops, the ugly truth is just underneath the surface. We may say "thank you for your service" with tears in our eyes, yet thousands of veterans across the land are without medical services and other vital benefits, and many are homeless, often due to "bad paper" discharges for things that stemmed from the trauma of their service.

Lately I have heard it suggested in a number of contexts that the celebrated work of lawyers on important civil rights cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright did not really accomplish nearly as much as it seemed on the surface. Indeed, some posit that those civil rights "victories" in some ways did as much harm as good by placing the window dressing of rights and progress on terrible wrongs, which then continued on with a new air of legitimacy. A nice looking bandage to cover a still festering wound. It's hard to disagree with these sentiments, to a point. In the South, at least, our schools are as segregated and unequal as ever, and the much vaunted right to counsel doesn't offer much protection to those who must be represented by public defenders who are so overworked that they have to resort to "meet and plead" justice, or by lawyers who are sufficiently incompetent that accepting appointed cases for peanuts is the only way they can scrape up a living. The existence of the laws and court decisions that supposedly guarantee these protections allows our legislators and our system of justice, and the general public, to look the other way.

There's no question that what initially looked like major victories have been ground down over the years. And sometimes it's hard not to feel similarly discouraged about all kinds of pro bono efforts, large and small - like you're applying a bandaid but the blood is still pouring out. Even when you win, the problems just keep coming. But the trouble isn't that the victories aren't real - it's that as a society we can't allow ourselves to be lulled by them and take our eyes off the prize. Change, like healing, is incremental and often it comes maddeningly slow (sometimes two steps forward and one step back). But we can't let that cause us to stop trying to make it happen, any more than we can be satisfied and call it done when we alleviate one symptom of a larger societal illness. The disease rages on.

It's wrong to suggest that the monumental efforts of lawyers who won the battles of the past were wasted, or even counterproductive, or that the role of lawyers in struggles against poverty, discrimination and civil rights violations is any less important today. We must redouble our efforts, and also recognize that we can't do it alone. Legal victories are vital, because they can offer direct relief to the client involved and because they can start the healing process, but much broader engagement, and vigilance, are required to cure what ails us.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Baker Donelson | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Baker Donelson
Contact
more
less

Baker Donelson on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.