Local Corporations Step Up to Provide Unique Pro Bono Legal Services in Contra Costa County
Contra Costa Senior Legal Services (CCSLS) is celebrating its 40th year of providing free legal services to older residents of our county. The nonprofit organization expects to provide services to a record 1,200 clients this year with a small staff of in-house attorneys and a veritable army of dedicated volunteer attorneys. Under CCSLS’ supervision, these pro bono attorneys staff everything from free Wills Clinics to the Senior Self-Help Clinics at the courthouse to its many Consult-An-Attorney Clinics at senior centers county-wide.
This year, CCSLS created and successfully launched a groundbreaking pro bono initiative – its corporate Pro Bono Partners program. With this new program, and in order to create single-purpose monthly legal clinics , CCSLS set out to form distinctive partnerships between (1) the legal divisions of corporations headquartered in the community, (2) local municipalities, and (3) CCSLS. The corporations provide the much-needed pro bono attorneys, the municipalities provide the building space, and CCSLS provides the training, expertise and supervision.
American International Group, Inc. (AIG), with regional headquarters in Concord, was the first corporation to join the new Pro Bono Partners program, partnering with CCSLS and the City of Concord to provide a free clinic for Advance Health Care Directives that opened with a gala ribbon-cutting ceremony in July. [Picture attached.] Timothy Wagner, Managing Attorney of AIG’s staff counsel legal department, explained the corporation’s decision to leap into the fray: “AIG is excited to partner with CCSLS and the City of Concord to provide a free clinic to our seniors. AIG has a long-standing commitment to pro bono work and to giving back to our communities. We are grateful to be part of this one-of-a-kind partnership.” AIG’s decision was based partly upon CCSLS’ recognition of the tremendous demand from seniors for end-of-life legal issues, which is the most requested advice today from civil legal aid organizations. The clinics have been fully booked since opening in July.
Members of the legal division of CSAA Insurance Group (CSAA IG), an AAA Insurer, followed closely on the heels of AIG in their decision to join the Pro Bono Partners program. A new monthly free clinic staffed by volunteers from CSAA IG’s legal division opened on November 8 as a three-way partnership between CSAA IG’s volunteers, CCSLS, and the Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District. Phyllis Solomon, Associate General Counsel at CSAA IG, explained the decision: “[l]ast year, 98 percent of our employees volunteered to support our communities and make a positive difference for those in need. This clinic both expands our company-wide commitment to volunteering and provides professionals in our Legal Division a meaningful opportunity to put our skills to good use in the community.” Four teams of volunteers from CSAA IG’s legal division will staff the Pleasant Hill clinic, providing Advance Health Care Directives to 16 seniors in individual 45-minute private appointments on Election Day.
CCCBA members have a wealth and variety of pro bono opportunities at their fingertips. CCSLS is happy to field calls from attorneys looking to expand their pro bono practices by helping seniors in our community.
CCSLS has a particular need for attorneys in the county who would be willing to consult with just one senior client per year on a pro bono basis, for a legal matter relating to consumer law, public benefits, elder financial or physical abuse, landlord/tenant/eviction, and other issues. If you are interested in volunteering, please call CCSLS at (925) 609-7900.