Legal Aid Honors Attorneys for Volunteerism

In observance of Law Day, a day designed to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession, Legal Aid of Arkansas has announced awards for its top volunteers. According to Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Arkansas: “Attorneys in Arkansas are selfless in their commitment to providing access to justice to those of humble financial means. Pro Bono volunteers allow Legal Aid to serve hundreds of individuals and families annually who would otherwise be standing alone at the Courthouse door.”

The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission joins Legal Aid in thanking these attorneys for living up to their professional duty to serve the impoverished, defenseless, and oppressed. Pro Bono service represents what is best about the legal profession and the Commission encourages all lawyers to follow the example of these honorees by giving back to their community.

2017 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards

Equal Access to Justice Panel-Outstanding Attorney

John Blair (Rogers)

Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly-Outstanding Attorney

Steven Davis (Harrison) & Ray Nickle (Jonesboro)

Medical-Legal Partnership-Outstanding Attorney

William Waddell Jr. (Little Rock)

Outstanding Pro Bono Attorneys

First Judicial District: Carter Dooley (Wynne) & Austin Easley (Forrest City)

Second Judicial District: Kevin Cole (Jonesboro), Christopher Jester (Jonesboro), Jeanette Whatley (Marion), Bill E. Bracey (Blytheville), & Jay Scurlock (Paragould)

Third Judicial District: Ed Boyce (Newport), Jim McLarty (Newport) & Joe Grider (Pocahontas)

Fourth Judicial District: Donald Tippett (Fayetteville) & Greg Cuzick (Springdale)

Fourteenth Judicial District: James Wallace (Flippin), Jodi Strother (Mountain Home), & Johnny Nichols (Harrison)

Sixteenth Judicial District: Scott Stalker (Batesville) & Mat Dellinger (Melbourne)

Nineteenth Judicial District: Joshua Meister (Rogers), Hadley Hindmarsh (Rogers), Will Prettyman (Rogers)

Twentieth Judicial District: Jerry Patterson (Marshall) & Donna Price (Clinton)

Over 50 Hours of Pro Bono Service

Ray Nickle (Jonesboro), Donn Mixon (Jonesboro), Jeanette Whatley (Marion), William Waddell Jr. (Little Rock), Harry Light (Little Rock), Jacob Worlow(Fayetteville), & Adam Lentz (Fayetteville)

Over 20 Hours of Pro Bono Service

Joshua Meister (Rogers), Joanne McCracken (Lowell), Mary Schneider (Rogers), Johnny Nichols (Harrison), Steven Davis (Harrison), Chris Flanagin (Eureka Springs), Ariel Snyder (Jonesboro), Roger McNeil (Jonesboro), Kevin Cole (Jonesboro), Christopher Jester (Jonesboro), Kevin Orr (Jonesboro), Megan Henry(Jonesboro), Justin Parkey (Jonesboro), Seth Williams (Jonesboro), Quincy Jaeger (Jonesboro), Lorie Whitby (Paragould), Jay Scurlock (Paragould), Blair Arnold(Batesville), Scott Stalker (Batesville), Bill E. Bracey (Blytheville), Michalene Connealy (Blytheville), Ben Hollowell (North Little Rock), Tory Lewis (Little Rock), Ann Faitz (North Little Rock), Jerry Patterson (Marshall), Donna Price (Clinton), Donald Tippett (Fayetteville), Raymond Smith (Fayetteville), Greg Cuzick (Springdale), Everett DePangher (Fayetteville), Kelly Freeze (Fayetteville), Kimberly Petrone (Fayetteville), Maggie Benson (Fayetteville), J. Timothy Smith (Fayetteville), Scott E. Smith (Fayetteville), George Butler (Fayetteville), D. Westbrook Doss (Fayetteville), Gail Segers (Fayetteville), Bob I. Mayes (Fayetteville), Greg Niblock (Stuttgart), Leigh Ann Yeargan (Fayetteville), Sarah Reyes (Rogers), Geoff Edwards (Fayetteville), Jennifer Quezada (Cave Springs), Tara Smith (Rogers), & Jeff McGinnis (Bentonville)

Volunteers Needed for Expungement Clinic

Legal Aid of Arkansas’s St. Vincent Medical Legal Partnership is in need of attorney volunteers for an expungement clinic to be held on March 16th. The event will assist low-income clients with sealing their criminal records in order to improve their ability to secure employment and decent housing. Volunteers are needed for a morning shift (8:30-11:30) and an afternoon shift (1-4:30). A few shifts for law student volunteers are also open.

Experience with criminal law and expungements is beneficial, but not required. A one hour CLE (accreditation pending) webinar will be provided at noon, March 14th, for anyone new to expungement or wanting a refresher.

For more information, or to volunteer, please contact our Program Coordinator, Jordan Rogers or call 501.492.7174.

Arkansas Supreme Court Declares Pro Bono Week

For the first time, the Arkansas Supreme Court has officially declared a celebration of Pro Bono Week in Arkansas. The Court has designated October 23rd through the 29th as a time “to recognize the valuable contributions made by pro bono attorneys throughout the year and to encourage pro bono participation . . . .”  The per curiam also praised the legal community’s commitment to public service as “one of the noblest attributes of the legal profession.” The full opinion can be found here

Pro Bono Week began in 2009 as an event organized by the American Bar Association to honor the work of pro bono attorneys and to encourage pro bono service by more lawyers. The event has since grown into a nationwide observance with thousands participating in clinics, workshops, open houses and other events. The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission has helped to organize Pro Bono Week activities in Arkansas since 2011 and is excited to have the Arkansas Supreme Court join in the effort. In addition to the Supreme Court, Governor Asa Hutchinson has issued a proclamation recognizing Pro Bono Week and both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly have issued citations to recognize the week.

Celebrate Pro Bono October 23-29, 2016

During National Pro Bono Week 2016, there will be several opportunities for attorneys to give back to their communities, including statewide and local events. For more information on how to get involved, check out the list of events below.

Our House Expungement Clinic

What: Our House, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission are partnering to host a clinic which will assist Our House clients in applying to have their criminal records sealed. Volunteer attorneys are still needed to assist in the clinic. No prior experience is necessary, as a free CLE will be provided before the clinic begins.

Where: Our House, 302 East Roosevelt Road Little Rock, AR.

When: October 28th, 2016. The CLE will begin at noon, with the clinic following at 1pm.

How to help: If you are interested in assisting with this clinic, contact Rachel Freeman, Pro Bono Coordinator for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, at  501.376.3423.

AR Free Legal Answers

What: The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission will be launching a new website called AR Free Legal Answers. This website, which is part of a program supported by the American Bar Association, will allow persons eligible for free legal aid to post their legal questions. Volunteer attorneys will have the opportunity to select questions to answer at their convenience. Attorneys remain anonymous, with the client seeing only that the question was answered by an Arkansas licensed attorney. No specific time commitment is required of attorneys and malpractice insurance will provided.

Where: This website will launch statewide.

When:  Monday, October 24th.

How to help: Attorneys can sign up to volunteer here. Questions can be directed to Jordan Rogers, Program Coordinator for the Access to Justice Commission, at 501.492.7174.

Just Jeans

What: Law firms, corporate legal departments, community organizations, government legal offices, judicial offices, and law schools can all help make a difference in the lives of Arkansans in need. Participating employees and students will make a minimum contribution of $5 to observe a Casual Friday. Contributions collected will support legal help for domestic violence victims, veterans struggling to readjust to civilian life, and children in need of stable homes or special education.

Where: Statewide.

When: Friday, October 28.

How to help: Offices, schools, nonprofits, and individuals can sign up to participate here. For more information, contact Erin Jacobson at 501.492.7176.

Pro Bono in Your PJs: Volunteering for New AR Virtual Legal Advice Project

AR Free Legal Answers Volunteers Can Give Virtual Legal Advice Anytime, Anywhere

Arkansas lawyers now have a unique opportunity to give back while fulfilling the ethical obligation to perform at least fifty hours of pro bono service each year: with the launch of AR Free Legal Answers, you can sign up to answer online questions from low-income, elderly, and disabled Arkansans about non-criminal legal issues. As a volunteer attorney, you can select which questions you will answer. You will remain anonymous to clients, who will only see “Volunteer Attorney.” You will be covered by the program’s malpractice insurance and have access to hundreds of advocate resources on the topics covered.

AR Free Legal Answers is part of a national American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers project that was originally pioneered in Tennessee. The Arkansas program is administered by Arkansas Access to Justice with support from the Arkansas Bar Association, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and Legal Aid of Arkansas.

Click here to read FAQs for attorney volunteers and here to watch a video explaining how the site works.

Ready to sign up? Click here.

‘Justice Gap’ Topic of Joint Judiciary Hearing at Supreme Court

Arkansans who face criminal prosecution but can’t afford a lawyer have a constitutional right to have an attorney appointed to represent them in court. No such right exists for victims of domestic violence, veterans denied military benefits, children in need of special education, and others who experience civil legal problems. For those individuals, legal aid is often the only source of help.

More than 746,000 Arkansans are eligible for legal aid, yet there are only 50 legal aid attorneys in the state. “You could fill Verizon Arena beyond capacity and ask everyone who has a legal problem to come forward,” said Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Arkansas. “Then provide one attorney to handle all the issues that come up. That is the scale of what we’re trying to deal with.”

In what is believed to be a first, members of the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Arkansas General Assembly will meet at the Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Building on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. to hear testimony from the directors of the state’s two legal aid programs—the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas—about the challenges their programs face in trying to meet the overwhelming demand for civil legal help.

Representatives of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission will also testify about the growing number of Arkansans who are representing themselves in court and the diminishing number of attorneys who live and work in rural areas of the state.

The Joint Judiciary hearing is one of a series of events happening during National Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, to highlight the need for legal aid and recognize the efforts of attorneys across the state who volunteer their time to represent Arkansans who cannot afford legal representation.

Policy Brief on Access to Justice in Rural Arkansas Released


Arkansas’s rural communities face a looming crisis when it comes to access to essential legal services: a dwindling and aging attorney population in the state’s 25 most rural counties. A policy brief entitled Access to Justice in Rural Arkansas, released today by the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, indicates that these counties average fewer than 0.44 practicing attorneys per 1,000 residents. Seven of these counties have no attorneys licensed this millennium, and one has no attorneys at all.

Despite these sobering statistics, there is hope. Many Arkansas law students would consider locating in a rural part of the state if certain incentives were made available. Rural legal aid fellowships, loan repayment assistance, and paid internships are among the programs that a majority of law students showed interest in, according to the survey of law students and attorneys that is the subject of the policy brief. Rural attorneys indicated a greater willingness to mentor and hire young lawyers than did attorneys from non-rural communities.

The survey probed the likely effectiveness of five complementary programs that the state’s two law schools and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission are jointly considering. Among the factors most likely to encourage students to practice in a rural setting were (1) the ability to have one’s own practice, (2) the opportunity to become a community leader, and (3) the ability to have and maintain their own clientele. Factors most likely to discourage students from locating to rural communities included (1) the perception that they would earn a lower income, (2) a perceived lack of career and economic opportunities, and (3) a relative lack of entertainment, restaurants, and similar amenities.

For questions about the policy brief, which details the results of a series of recent surveys conducted by Prof. Lisa R. Pruitt of UC Davis School of Law, please contact us. A forthcoming article in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review will provide a more in-depth analysis of the rural access problem and its implications.

Friday Firm’s Harry Light Honored for Commitment to Access to Justice

Friday, Eldredge & Clark partner Harry Light has received the Arkansas Bar Foundation’s 2014 Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award. The award, which was presented at a June 11 awards banquet in Hot Springs, is given annually to recognize dedication to and participation in the equal justice program for the poor, including pro bono efforts through legal services programs.

Light, who practices in the areas of bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial litigation, and trademark/copyright applications, has also served as the mayor of Cammack Village, Arkansas, since 1995.

Light has demonstrated an ardent commitment to improving access to justice in Arkansas through his pro bono service in the Arkansas Delta. In 2013 alone, Light donated more than 64 hours of his time to the medical-legal partnership in Clarendon, Arkansas, at Mid-Delta Health Systems. On the third Tuesday of every month, he interviews clients, provides advice, and takes cases.

“I am humbled each time I visit with legal aid clients in the Delta and am fortified by the strength and courage they exhibit in meeting life’s basic challenges with limited means,” Light said. “To be able to assist them in some small way is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding privileges of being an Arkansas lawyer.”

Light has been a member of the Volunteer Organization for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services (VOCALS) since 1990. He is also a member of Legal Aid of Arkansas’s Equal Access to Justice Panel (EAJP).

Light puts precedence on making personal connections through his pro bono work. In 2012, he handled a case involving a guardianship for two newborn twins. A twin himself, Light was eager to assist the babies’ grandmother in filing a petition. Over the Thanksgiving holiday that year, Light stopped by the Clarendon grocery store to pick up a gift certificate for his client, who was caring for two other grandchildren in addition to the twins. After visiting the family, he remarked to a colleague, “I never knew pro bono work could be so emotional.”

In addition to his pro bono work, Light volunteers for the Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals (CARE), which he founded in 1998. He also serves on the boards of Metroplan and the Arkansas Better Business Bureau. Light has served on the Arkansas Bar Association’s House of Delegates and Board of Governors, and in 2009, he received the Association’s Golden Gavel Award for his work as the Chair of the 2009 Annual Meeting.

Arkansas Access to Justice Commission members Representative John Vines and D’lorah Hughes, as well as Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation board member Frank Sewall, were also recognized at the June 11 ceremony for their contributions to the legal profession.

Vines was awarded the Arkansas Bar Association Presidential Award. The award honors an individual who works to advance the administration of justice and promotes the principles of integrity, learning, and public service. Hughes received the Special Award of Merit for her substantial contributions to the education of future Arkansas lawyers through her work in the Juvenile Law Clinic at the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Sewall received the Arkansas Bar Foundation’s C.E. Ransick Award of Excellence. This award is presented to an attorney each year whom the Arkansas Bar Association recognizes for setting the bar of excellence and for demonstrating exemplary practice in and out of the courtroom.

Friday, Eldredge & Clark to Receive National Award for Pro Bono Service

Arkansas’s largest law firm—Friday, Eldredge & Clark—is among a handful of law firms nationally that the National Legal Aid & Defender Association has selected to receive its prestigious Beacon of Justice Award at a June 2014 ceremony in Washington, D.C. The firm will be receiving the award in recognition of its pioneering volunteer work with Legal Aid of Arkansas and an Arkansas Delta-based medical-legal partnership. Award recipients were selected using critera that assessed increased access to representation through the utilization of groundbreaking and original ideas, tools, and technology to create new delivery models and initiatives.

In 2012, the Friday Firm’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group began traveling to Clarendon, Arkansas, on the third Thursday of every month to meet with patients at Mid-Delta Health Systems. Since that time, they have “adopted” the clinic and now send a team of attorneys to meet with clinic patients twice a month to provide free legal assistance for issues ranging from family law to consumer matters. Their work has expanded to include another Legal Aid of Arkansas medical-legal partnership in another poor, rural area of the state: Lee County Cooperative Clinic in Marianna, Arkansas.

“The Friday Firm’s commitment to these projects has proven to be an innovative, high-impact way to help these rural clinics address underlying social issues that affect health outcomes of their patients,” said Arkansas Access to Justice Commission Executive Director Amy Johnson. The firm’s attorneys volunteered more than 300 hours in 2013 on this project alone, said Johnson. In total, Friday Firm attorneys performed a total of more than 1,700 hours of pro bono services statewide in 2013. At least two of the Friday Firm’s clients have supported these efforts, either by making financial contributions to the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation or by sponsoring and providing employee support for pro bono events.

Harry Light—a Friday Firm lawyer who volunteers for the medical-legal partnership project—underscored the personal impact that this project has had on him: “I am humbled each time I visit with legal aid clients in the Delta and am fortified by the strength and courage they exhibit in meeting life’s basic challenges with limited means. To be able to assist them in some small way is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding privileges of being an Arkansas lawyer.”

Shep Russell, the managing partner at the Friday firm, noted how the firm’s young lawyers are drawn to access to justice issues:  “Our younger lawyers are busy establishing their practices, but they make time for pro bono work. It fulfills their desire to use their skills to improve the community, whether it be writing simple wills and powers of attorney for the parents of children who are patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital or helping a grandmother become the legal guardian of her grandchildren.” He added, “We are humbled that the NLADA has recognized our firm for the pro bono work that our lawyers did because they wanted to make a difference.”

NLADA annually sponsors 13 awards honoring the distinguished men, women, firms and organizations whose outstanding service and achievements advance the cause of equal access to justice. Past awardees have included Brad Smith of Microsoft; Rick Cotton of NBC Universal; Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grant program; Hillary Rodham Clinton, Legal Services Advocate and First Lady; New York Times; Daily Record; Hon. Janet Reno, Former United States Attorney General; Brooklyn (NY) Bar Association; State Bar of California; and many others advancing the cause of equal access to justice. Award winners will be formally honored at the NLADA Exemplar Award Dinner on Thursday, June 26, 2014, at The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington D.C.

As Arkansas’s largest law firm, Friday, Eldredge & Clark serves a diverse clientele across Arkansas and throughout the United States. The firm’s lawyers work closely, whether as local counsel or regional counsel, with some of the finest firms in America.  The firm is a member of the Southern Law Network, comprising many of the leading law firms with offices in 13 states.

Vincent Morris Receives NLADA Innovations in Equal Justice Award

Arkansas Legal Services Partnership Director Vincent Morris received the National Legal Aid & Defender Association‘s 2014 Innovations in Equal Justice Award at a May 1 award ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The ceremony was attended by over 400 guests, including American Bar Association President Charles Silkenat and Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Balmer. Morris received the award in recognition of his outstanding career contributions to creativity and innovation in the delivery of legal service to poor people.

NLADA annually sponsors thirteen awards honoring the distinguished men, women, firms and organizations whose outstanding service and achievements advance the cause of equal access to justice. Past awardees have included Brad Smith of Microsoft; Rick Cotton of NBC Universal; Legal Services Corporation Technology; Hillary Rodham Clinton, Legal Services Advocate and First Lady; New York Times; Daily Record; Hon. Janet Reno, Former United States Attorney General; Brooklyn (NY) Bar Association; State Bar of California; and many others advancing the cause of equal access to justice.

In presenting the honor, NLADA Vice President of Civil Legal Services Don Saunders highlighted a variety of Morris’s achievements in the eleven years since he began work for legal aid as an eight-week intern. While working as an intern, Morris applied for and received a Technology Initiative Grant to build a statewide legal aid website for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas. He has since grown the website to include more than 170 automated resources, real-time chat assistance, streaming videos, and hundreds of advocate resources.

“Morris’s work is vital to the more than 17,000 clients that Arkansas’s two legal aid providers serve each year, the advocates who help them, and the Arkansans who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford an attorney,” said Saunders.