Attorneys have already helped 50 non-profit organizations and people in need
The ProBono Attorneys program is open to all other attorneys who want to help organizations in Slovakia for free.
It has now been two years since Pontis Foundation established the ProBono Attorneys program. During these years, about 40 attorneys have provided free help to 50 non-profit organizations and their clients from vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. In most cases, the attorneys have not only offered legal assistance with intra-organizational affairs of these organizations. “They have also helped clients of the NGOs– the victims of domestic violence and families in crisis that have been threatened with a child deprivation due to the loss of housing,” Lucia Borovská, a program coordinator at Pontis Foundation, says. Besides, the attorneys have also developed several legal analyses and proposals to modify the laws on the environment.
Attorneys talked about their experience
The attorneys were talking about their experience from pro bono assistance last Thursday in Domec (House), a daily integration centre in Bratislava, which serves to help homeless people. “Some people are like wolves who act like sheep, and we cannot even imagine what they can do to their loved ones,” Róbert Bános, one of the active attorneys, said. Róbert cooperates with Mamám Slovenska (To moms of Slovakia), a civic association, and provides advice to women in difficult situations through a website – Nanicmama.sk. “When opening my law firm, I have decided to devote a certain amount of my working time to pro bono cases, to help people, and I try to adhere to this decision,” he explained.
Another law firm involved, which is one of the most active in the program, is bntattorneys-at-law. “We believe we should contribute to the civic society and help those who need it. We should assist in what we are best at, in some legal issues to someone who needs it and who cannot afford a lawyer,” Vladimír Kordoš, an attorney, said. From the beginning, bntattorneys-at-law has helped 8 organizations in a wide range of legal issues. One of the organizations was Odysseus (Ulysses), a civic association, which is dedicated to people addicted to drugs and those who work in the sex business. Ulysses needed a legal advice on the possibility of administration of the Nalaxon drug by social workers as first aid in case of overdose. “We do not choose cases according to their focus, but according to whether they can practically help the society,” Vladimír Kordoš said.
Attorneys will address the legal issues of homeless people
The help of Slovak attorneys to people from non-profit organizations is of great importance and it also represents a moral support for them. “This way, we not only help non-profit organizations do their public good activities more effectively, but we also enhance their legal awareness and strengthen their capacity in work with clients who are marginalized and who are unable to gain proper legal assistance. The attorneys who participate in our program match their colleagues from Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in their activities and in the number of claims received even though such programs are carried out for a longer period in the neighboring countries,” Lucia Borovská from Pontis Foundation says.
In November, for example, there was held the first legal assistance training for social workers of an association aimed at better help for their female clients who face violent crimes. The attorneys are currently developing two legal analyses concerning the rights of pregnant and parturient women in health facilities in Slovakia, and the case law and literature relating to a non-pecuniary damage award.
“Currently, we are preparing a new form of support in cooperation with organizations dealing with homeless people. We would like more attorneys to get involved in a joint working group that would focus on systematic legal assistance to homeless people over the next year. Many of these people face problems that are often caused by incomplete regulations. People on the edge of the society are often unable to break free from the vicious circle. Their debts are increasing what results in them remaining in the street,” Lucia Borovská says.
The ProBono Attorneys program is open to other attorneys also in the year 2014. If you are interested in joining the initiative and you welcome our help in mediating current and relevant applications of non-profit organizations to you, get involved: Attorneys provide NGOs with pro bono help. In the next year, we will offer our members an educational legal training in selected areas of public interest law, and another thematic seminar from NGO environment and sensitive social topics that NGOs address.