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Eliza Vorenberg is the Director of Pro Bono and Community Partnerships and the Director of the Pro Bono Collaborative. Eliza is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College (1983) and Columbia Law School (1990) and clerked for Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Herbert P. Wilkins. She has extensive...

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The Pro Bono Collaborative Celebrates 10 Years

Posted by Eliza Vorenberg on 06/07/2016 at 11:37 AM

Pro Bono Collaborative 10th AnniversaryThe Pro Bono Collaborative celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 26 with balloons, confetti, birthday cake, bubbly and lots to brag about (see photos from the event below). 

A small piloted program initiated in 2006 with a part-time Director, the PBC emerged from its first year with three unique pro bono projects involving three law firms and a handful of law students.  Now, ten years later, the PBC has facilitated 56 projects, engaged 26 law firms and over 130 private attorneys.

Associate Director of Pro Bono Programs Suzanne Harrington-Steppen, Dean Michael Yelnosky, RWU President Donald Farish and Director of Pro Bono & Community Partnerships Eliza Vorenberg  Launched in response to the national crisis in legal services for the poor and the overwhelming need for pro bono legal services in Rhode Island, the PBC sought to complement the services provided through the RI Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Program and Rhode Island Legal Services, to forge collaborations among business law firms, community-based organizations, and our law students, and to increase the number of law firm attorneys doing pro bono work by developing volunteer-friendly issue-based projects and providing substantive training, experienced mentors, and law student assistance.

Over the past ten years, the PBC has facilitated 5,100 pro bono attorney hours and 6,700 pro bono law student hours. PBC projects have provided critical legal services to our most vulnerable communities.  These services have included:

  • Over 200 community legal presentations,
  • Legal advice and counsel to over 700 individuals,
  • Direct representation to over 200 individuals in areas including guardianship, special education, family law, expungement and immigration, and
  • Legal assistance to 19 non-profits, all serving low-income Rhode Islanders.

The pro bono legal service to low-income communities leveraged by the PBC has:

  • helped create affordable housing and prevent homelessness
  • expunged and sealed criminal records,
  • advocated for special education for families with disabled children,
  • provided legal representation in family law to victims of domestic violence,
  • helped families with developmentally disabled children transition to adulthood through assistance with guardianship and alternatives to guardianship,
  • provided immigration relief for families with children,
  • provided legal help to non-profits that serve thousands of low-income people, and
  • provided tax preparation services and advocacy for low-income taxpayers.

Celebrating 10 Years of Pro Bono PartnershipsOne project that may still have the greatest impact is the PBC’s Access to Justice Project that has been doggedly advocating for an Access to Justice Commission in RI and for limited scope representation.

Take a look at the 10 year flip book for more on what the PBC has accomplished.

Thank you to all of our donors and participating attorneys, firms, community based organizations and law students for making the PBC what it is.  We are looking forward to continuing this important work.