Conference to Look at Evolving Role of Pro Bono Work

Release Date: April 9, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- National and local experts on providing legal services to those unable to afford high lawyer bills will convene in Buffalo this month for a three-day pro bono conference sponsored by the University at Buffalo's Law School, the Department of Sociology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and local judicial organizations.

The conference, beginning at 5 p.m. April 24 in the Main-Seneca Building, 327 Main St., will investigate new developments and research in pro bono legal help, explore the relationship between pro bono ideals and pro bono in practice, and examine the opportunities and limitations of pro bono in expanding access to justice.

Entitled "Private Lawyers and the Public Interest: The Evolving Role of Pro Bono in the Legal Profession," the conference will feature two keynote addresses.

Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University and one of the nation's leading scholars in the fields of legal ethics and professional responsibility, will speak at 6 p.m. April 24. Rhode is the author of numerous books, including "Pro Bono in Principle and Practice: Public Service and the Professions" (2005) and "Access to Justice" (2004). She will explore ways to make the best use of private lawyers' pro bono efforts in collaboration with public interest organizations.

The conference continues April 25 in the UB Law School with five panel presentations by scholars from across the country, and a second keynote address to be given at 1 p.m. by Karen Mathis. Mathis is immediate past-president of the American Bar Association, the third woman to serve as president and a partner with McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney, and Carpenter, LLP, in Denver. Her presentation, "A Second Season of Service," will explore ways in which senior attorneys can contribute their expertise pro bono.

The conference will conclude April 26 with a morning training session on matrimonial law for local practitioners. The session is designed to train attorneys with little or no experience in matrimonial law on how to handle a divorce case efficiently from the first meeting with the client to the signing of the final divorce papers.

Free and open to the public, the conference is organized by Robert Granfield, professor and chair of the UB Department of Sociology; Lynn Mather, professor and director of the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in the UB Law School; Anthony Szczgiel, UB law professor; Robert Elardo, managing attorney with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Bar Association of Erie County; and Amanda Warner, Eighth Judicial District pro bono coordinator with the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

CLE credits are available for attorneys and will be offered for both days; six on April 25 in the area of professional practice (non-transitional only) and four on April 26 in the areas of skills and professional practice. Saturday's training is free in exchange for a commitment to handle a pro bono divorce case within one year. Full program and registration details are available on the Web site at

The conference is part of UB 2020's commitment to civic engagement and public policy.

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