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Does “Talk to a Lawyer Today” really make a difference?

ISBA President Jim Dimos appeared on WISH-TV to promote Monday’s “Talk to a Lawyer Today” program resulting in all seven lines being lit up by members of the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 20.

By Patricia L. McKinnon, Esq.
pmckinnon@indianafamilylawyer.com

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For thirteen years, the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) has honored the legacy of Dr. King Jr., by offering the “Talk To A Lawyer Today” program.  Held on Dr. King Jr.’s celebrated birthday, the program is a coordinated effort, with the pro bono plan administrators across Indiana, to offer free legal advice to the general public.  Attorneys offer brief legal consultations, either through a phone call, or through a face-to-face consultation at more than 20 locations across Indiana. More than 200 Indiana attorneys volunteer for this program each year.

But, does the program really make a difference?

This year, I spoke, by phone, to a 95-year-old woman, “… in perfect health,” regarding retaining an attorney to draw up a Will, a Living Will, and a Power of Attorney. The only document she currently possesses is Trust. A Trust written over 10 years ago. She thought the terms of the Trust were enough to cover all the end-of-life issues, including whether or not she would remain on life support during her final illness.

Another caller didn’t understand his options regarding applying to restrict access to his past criminal history. He is looking for a job and worried that his one felony conviction, committed over 10 years ago, would prevent him from landing a new job.

Another, younger woman didn’t know about the existence of federal and state agencies that might be able assist her in enforcing her doctor’s instructions that she stand no more than four hours per day on her job. She has rheumatoid arthritis. Her doctor’s letter is on file with her employer, but is routinely ignored by her boss, who says, “What are we supposed to do?  The work still has to be done.”

These are just a few examples from my own contact with callers that contacted the ISBA by calling the “800” number that rings directly into the ISBA office. It is the same “800” number that attorneys across Indiana can use to contact the ISBA regarding membership questions or issues. As you can imagine, the ISBA continues to receive requests for assistance from the public long after the “Talk To A Lawyer Today” program is over.

Does our program truly make a difference?  You be the judge.

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