SLO County attorneys help the poor
August 26, 2013
San Luis Obispo County’s pro bono system of legal services to the poor is more robust than those services in Santa Barbara County. [PacificCoastBusinessTimes]
The California State Bar Association recommends lawyers spend at least 50 hours a year providing legal services to the poor.
In San Luis Obispo County, the local bar associations has programs set in place to help the poor with civil issues. In addition, many local attorneys also offer free legal assistance.
San Luis Obispo based attorney Neil Tardiff operates the SLO Law Line with interns fielding calls and attorneys providing legal help to the poor.
Tardiff has reached out to the more than 800 local attorneys. Of those, approximately 100 local attorneys now provide provide pro bono work to the poor through the SLO Law Line.
Some local firms, such as the firm of Andre, Morris & Buttery, have enacted formal policies to help encourage their legal staff to take on pro bono work.
In some cases, attorneys can request reimbursement for providing legal assistance to the downtrodden. Laws permit attorneys who undertake cases on behalf of the poor to request attorney’s fees if they win the case. If they lose, they would get nothing.
Earlier this year, a judge ordered the city of San Luis Obispo to pay $133,880 to attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins for work they provided to the homeless in a civil case regarding sleeping in vehicles. Rizzo and Jenkins donated their services while defending their homeless clients in criminal court, which at their regular rate would have come to approximately $60,000