City to be first in Alabama to proclaim Pro Bono Week

Published 8:57 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

On June 25, Gov. Bob Riley signed a proclamation naming the week of Oct. 25-31 as Pro Bono Week for the state of Alabama.

“Pro bono” is Latin for “for the good,” describing legal work done for free or at a lower cost

On Monday, the City of Demopolis is expected to become the first municipality to issue a similar proclamation at its city council meeting at noon at Rooster Hall. Northport attorney and Demopolis native Alyce Manley Spruell will be on hand for the occasion. Spruell was elected as president-elect of the Alabama Bar Association last month.

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“Pro Bono Week is sponsored by the American Bar Association, and our state bar association is emphasizing it,” Spruell said. “Regretfully, we are the state that gives the least to funding to pro bono legal representation. We are actually behind Puerto Rico, so we are trying to emphasize that not only that our membership do more in its volunteering, but also the state citizenry understand and support the need for this.

“I know — living in west Alabama, and I am so proud to be from Marengo County — that there is such a need for it. There are so many people who don’t have access to lawyers or can’t afford a lawyer. Our young lawyers division and leadership project with the state will hopefully run a free legal clinic in Demopolis in November as part of that Pro Bono Week celebration.”

“This is an opportunity to be a part of a worthy program,” said Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson. “Alyce brought it to our attention, and if she thinks that this is something that would be good, then I’m all for it. The fact that citizens can benefit — what could go wrong?”

According to Gov. Riley’s proclamation, more than 940,000 Alabamians live in poverty and one-fourth of those people experience legal problems. There are only 55 legal aid lawyers in Alabama for the more than 422,000 low-income households in the state.

Pro Bono Week will feature legal aid clinics and assistance for Alabamians who need legal assistance but cannot afford it. It will also feature service projects throughout the state that help lawyers and law students make volunteer connections with legal aid organizations.