Articles from the “Community Service” issue of the printed journal, Communiqué (February 2016) :
- “CCBA Volunteerism: A Spotlight on CCBA Members Serving the Community”
- “Youth Court Gives Troubled Teens a “Second Chance” While Holding Them Accountable for Their Actions” by Alexis L. Brown, Esq.
- “Finding Pro Bono Service That Fits Your Practice and Passion” By Jennifer L. Braster
- “Finding Opportunities for Attorneys to Support Pro Bono Legal Services in Clark County: A Profile of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada”
- “Finding Opportunities for Attorneys to Support Pro Bono Legal Services in Clark County: A Profile of the Nevada Legal Services”
- “Finding Opportunities for Attorneys to Support Pro Bono Legal Services in Clark County: A Profile of the Southern Nevada Senior Law Project”
© 2016 The following articles were originally published in COMMUNIQUÉ, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. (February 2016). All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article, contact the publisher Clark County Bar Association, 717 S. 8th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Phone: (702) 387-6011.
CCBA Volunteerism: A Spotlight on CCBA Members Serving the Community
A Photo essay
Youth Court Gives Troubled Teens a “Second Chance” While Holding Them Accountable for Their Actions
By Alexis L. Brown, Esq.
As a former peer counselor and current senior attorney for Trial by Peers, the Clark County Law Foundation’s unique pro bono diversionary program holds a very special place in my heart. In fact, a framed motion to dismiss penned for Trial By Peers at the tender (and very shy) age of 13 still hangs on my office wall paying tribute to my brief foray as a young “lawyer” in the program. Trial by Peers was, and continues to be, a transformative experience in my life and career and, without any doubt, has positively impacted the lives of countless youth, judges, lawyers, and administrators involved with the program over the last 25 years.
Trial by Peers is designed as an early intervention tool to deter youthful delinquent behavior before a pattern is established. Exactly as it name suggests, Trial by Peers is a youth court in which children aged 12 to 17 are referred into the program for first- and some second-time nonviolent misdemeanor offenses (e.g., petit larceny, curfew violation, and school disturbance) are prosecuted, represented and sentenced by their peers – other teens. The positive peer pressure fostered in the Trial by Peers courtroom, together with parental involvement, is key to Trial by Peers’ success.
Before prosecuting or defending any of the approximately 200 cases referred into Trial By Peers each year, peer counselor hopefuls dedicate themselves to an intensive summer course on criminal and courtroom procedure, evidence, strategy, and argument, among other topics. Peer counselors must complete a mock trial and pass the Trial by Peers bar exam before taking the Trial by Peers oath and being sworn in.
Under the mentorship of one of the program’s volunteer senior attorneys, peer counselors brave enough to tackle cases are responsible for preparing and presenting evidence and witnesses at trial and/or arguing sentencing before one of the program’s roster of District and Justice Court judges that volunteer their evenings, and courtrooms, to Trial By Peers. Those peer counselors leave Trial by Peers with not only a hands-on understanding of and appreciation for the law, but incredible amounts of self confidence and, often, lifelong relationships with the judges and attorneys that mentor them.
Originally, teen defendants could only be referred into to Trial by Peers by Clark County Family Youth Services (Juvenile Court) after receiving a citation. In the last year, however, Trial by Peers expanded its reach to allow concerned parents and dedicated officers from the Bolden Area Command of the Las Vegas Metropolitan and Clark County School District Police Departments to refer at risk teens into this program for participation before they ever receive a formal citation from law enforcement.
Of the teens referred into Trial by Peers in 2015, an impressive 90% completed sentences consisting of jury duty, community service, at least one of Trial by Peers’ youth skills classes, and other conditions imposed by their peer juries, which could include letters of apology or reflective essays. In exchange for completing their sentences, the teens’ cases are closed and their records remain clean. As an added benefit, Trial by Peers also provides participating teens and their parents with referrals to beneficial community resources, such as low cost counseling, before they exit the program.
As Trial by Peers continues to grow each year, so does its need for volunteer judges, senior attorneys, and peer counselors. For more information about Trial by Peers and how you or your children can get involved, please visit www.clarkcountylawfoundation.org/trial-by-peers or contact the Clark County Law Foundation’s Director, Patrick Montejano, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (702) 333-8277.
Alexis L. Brown, Esq. is a sole practitioner with deep roots in the Nevada legal community practicing in civil litigation, business, real estate, family law, personal injury and criminal defense. Alexis can be reached at (702) 581-1494 or email@example.com.
Finding Pro Bono Service That Fits Your Practice and Passion”
By Jennifer L. Braster, Esq.
Fresh out of law school, I was fortunate to work for a commercial litigation firm that encouraged pro bono services. As an associate attorney, I volunteered for several programs offered by our community’s various pro bono organizations.
My pro bono experience has ranged from being a volunteer judge at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law competitions to helping prevent a recently widowed mother from losing her family home. However, I never found a pro bono program that spoke to my personal passion: animal rights advocacy and rescue. I was an avid volunteer with Best Friends Animal Society, a well-known animal sanctuary and advocacy group, but I did not get to employ my legal skills when volunteering with Best Friends Animal Society.
Fast forward several years, after spending a year as a stay-at-home mom, and I found myself opening a law firm with a former colleague. One of my goals in forming my own firm was to find a way to incorporate animal rights advocacy and rescue into my legal practice.
Shortly after forming our firm, I co-founded Women’s Business Council, an association of local business women. One of the focuses of Women’s Business Council was to partner with a local non-profit organization to apply the business members’ professional skills to a community group.
Transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a business owner and co-founder of professional women’s association left little time to incorporate additional volunteer or pro bono work. Nevertheless, I was determined to meet my goals. Ultimately, that meant incorporating pro bono work into what I was already doing in both my legal practice and the women’s business group. Within the first six months of opening my law firm, I was presented with a case in which a woman’s dog was falsely accused of biting a child. In representing this client, I used my litigation experience to successfully achieve the release of her dog. That one pro bono experience was more fulfilling and personally satisfying for me than any of my prior pro bono work because it was in an area that I was passionate about.
Through Women’s Business Council, I met the President of Hearts Alive Village of Las Vegas, a local animal rescue and advocacy organization. Women’s Business Council partnered with Hearts Alive Village and I joined Hearts Alive Village’s board of directors. As part of Women’s Business Council and a volunteer board member of Hearts Alive Village, I used my legal skills and experience to assist Hearts Alive Village in its endeavors. As a newly-created non-profit organization, Hearts Alive Village could not afford to hire an attorney when it needed legal advice.
In the last year, my work with Hearts Alive Village has spanned from reviewing various contracts to offering legal advice when issues have arisen with rescued or adopted animals. Women’s Business Council also held its first annual fundraiser for Hearts Alive Village and raised $2,500 for the organization.
Regardless of the amount of hours you work or your family obligations, it is nearly always possible to find time to provide pro bono services. For me, it meant figuring out a way to incorporate pro bono services into my existing practice and community activities. This pro bono work has become part of my practice, part of Women’s Business Council, and part of my work as a board member on Hearts Alive Village…instead of another matter or responsibility. Incorporating this work into my existing practice, enabled me to perform pro bono services that speak to my heart: animal rights advocacy and rescue.
I encourage all attorneys to find a way to incorporate their volunteer work into their legal practice and apply their legal knowledge and experience in areas where their own passion lies.
Jennifer Braster is a founding partner of Maupin Naylor Braster, as well as the Treasurer of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar and a board member of Hearts Alive Village, a local animal rescue. Through this work, Jennifer has provided low cost and pro bono animal law services.
Finding Opportunities for Attorneys to Support Pro Bono Legal Services in Clark County: A Profile of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada is a non-profit law firm dedicated to providing civil legal services to those unable to pay. We have been providing free legal aid since 1958, and in 2015 served over 110,000 people. With 39 attorneys and 46 support staff, we are the fifth largest law firm in Nevada.
Our services range from free legal education to counsel to direct legal representation. For basic information, we offer free legal education classes in conjunction with the William S. Boyd School of Law. Topics include: Divorce, Paternity/Custody, Small Claims, Bankruptcy, Guardianship, Collection Proof, Immigration and Record Sealing.
Individuals who are pro se and need more than general information, i.e., they need help completing a legal form, can visit the Civil Law Self Help or Family Law Self-Help Center, with locations at the Regional Justice Center and Family Courts and Services Center. If legal advice is needed, we have “Ask-A-Lawyer” programs in which volunteer lawyers provide free consultations in a range of areas, including family, landlord/tenant, small claims, federal, veterans, homeless assistance, and small business.
The Family Justice Project represents victims of violence or crime in obtaining protective orders, as well as individuals in need of obtaining a divorce, custody order, adoption, name change, or guardianship. Our Immigration Protection Program helps battered immigrants under the VAWA, U-visa, and SIJ programs and those seeking deferred action. The Consumer Rights Project represents consumers victimized by fraudulent sales practices, unfair debt collection, auto fraud scams, and payday loans, and assists people with bankruptcy and foreclosure matters.
Our Children’s Attorneys Project provides direct representation to over 4,000 abused and neglected children in foster care, giving them a voice in their court proceedings. We also help parents of children with special education needs whose rights are being violated, and we train volunteers to act as surrogate parents to special needs kids in foster care.
The Pro Bono Project supplements all of these programs through local attorneys who volunteer their time representing individuals on cases and through Ask-A-Lawyer programs. In 2015, the Project placed 800 cases with volunteer attorneys and served 5,796 people.
For further information, visit www.lacsn.org or call (702) 386-1070. Lawyers wishing to volunteer may visit www.lacsnprobono.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding Opportunities for Attorneys to Support Pro Bono Legal Services in Clark County: A Profile of the Nevada Legal Services
Nevada Legal Services (NLS) is a non-profit organization providing free legal services to low income Nevadans. It is the only statewide provider of civil legal aid in the state, assisting every county in Nevada with six offices located in Las Vegas, Reno, Elko, Carson City, and Yerington.
The staff of NLS represents clients in federal courts, state courts, and in administrative hearings on many legal matters, including:
• Housing and eviction defense
• Public benefits
• Social Security benefits
• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)
• Medical assistance
• County Social Services
• Unemployment Insurance benefits
• Consumer law
• Foreclosure counseling
• Exempt property
• Family law
• Elder law
• Indian Law Project
• Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC)
• Criminal Record Sealing
• Wills and Estate
NLS also coordinates pro bono outreach activities for private attorneys, including legal education classes, Ask-a-Lawyer programs, and case involvement.
Contact Pro Bono Coordinator, Michelle Nisce at (702) 386-0404, ext. 140. Visit www.nlslaw.net.
Finding Opportunities for Attorneys to Support Pro Bono Legal Services in Clark County: A Profile of the Southern Nevada Senior Law Project
Southern Nevada Senior Law Program (SNLSP) has had an exciting three years since our transition in 2012 from a City of Las Vegas program, first established in 1978, to a free standing 501(c)(3) non-profit. Still dedicated to providing free legal services to persons 60 years and older, SNSLP is the only legal service provider in Clark County that exclusively serves seniors.
SNSLP’s clients may be your parents and grandparents. Many of our clients face catastrophic illnesses and need to do end-of-life planning. Other clients may be victims of elder abuse, need legal assistance with a Social Security matter, consumer dispute, or long-term placement in a nursing facility. Our mission is to assist seniors in maintaining independence and dignity while helping resolve their legal issues.
SNSLP provides legal advice and representation in a variety of civil areas:
Simple wills, estate planning, and probate matters.
Advance directives (living wills and durable powers of attorneys for health care).
Long-term health care planning, including improper discharge from facilities.
Consumer, including unfair debt collection, merchant disputes, and contract issues
Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Veterans benefits.
Prevention of elder abuse.
Real property, including beneficiary deeds, homesteads, and termination of joint tenancies.
Landlord tenant, HOA and foreclosure assistance.
We also maintain a robust outreach program throughout rural and urban Clark County and make visits to homebound seniors, as well as those living in group care assisted living and adult day care facilities.
We deeply appreciate the efforts of volunteer attorneys, Boyd School of Law externs, donors, and our community partners in our quest to deliver access to justice for all seniors in need.
If you would like to assist us in our efforts, please contact Sugar Vogel or Elana T. Graham at (702) 229-6644 or visit us at www.snslp.org.