Retired Lawyers Sought To Expand Pro Bono Pilot Project
In one case, Arakas helped someone who already won a small claims judgment figure out how to collect it. Another case involved a client who was having trouble getting a landlord to return his security deposit. "We've seen a wide variety of cases, all the things people experience, day in and day out," Arakas said. "I find it so rewarding. You really feel like you are helping people. People are very grateful to get the help."
Surveys taken by court staff after the advice is given show a 95 percent satisfaction rate, the volunteer lawyers said. "A lot of the folks who are representing themselves in small claims court really need some help," Janes said. "There's a need for some legal advice."
So far, the volunteers have mostly offered that advice to plaintiffs, but plans are to give counsel to an increasing number of defendants. Janes emphasized that the volunteer lawyers don't advocate for litigants in the courtroom, but give them tips on how to handle the hearing on their own. "This is just advice, a one-shot deal," Janes said.
He added that volunteers need not have litigation experience. "The law that's involved in most of these cases is not complex," he said. Nor does participation require a tremendous time commitment. "But it does get the lawyers to the courthouse," Janes said. Retired lawyers get to put on their suits and feel like they are part of the profession again, he said.
"It's enjoyable for me. I really like working with clients," said Janes. "It's fun to do this because the clients appreciate the help you can give them."•
For more information about the Small Claims Project, or to volunteer, contact Melissa Wyckoff at 860-612-2036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.