LIMITED PRO BONO ASSISTANCE PROGRAM HELPS
LITIGANTS REPRESENT THEMSELVES
"I could never imagine that fifteen minutes could be so valuable," said an individual who recently received help through the Limited Pro Bono Assistance Program. The program, which is a joint effort of the Administrative Office of the Courts and Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, is designed to assist self-represented litigants by providing a fifteen minute consultation with an attorney to obtain answers to specific legal questions concerning their case. Prior to meeting with an attorney, the litigants fill out an intake form and meet with staff from the Administrative Office of the Courts who explain the program and help them articulate the question(s) they wish to discuss with the attorney.
According to Andrew and William A. Gonser, Jr., a father and son who both regularly serve as attorneys for the program, “The parties leave with a better understanding of the law and court procedure, which helps to either promote settlement or at least facilitate a smoother trial. With the growing number of pro se litigants, especially in today’s economy, the benefits of the program are invaluable.” The program is fortunate to have a number of attorneys, such as the Gonsers, who generously volunteer their time to help self-represented litigants. Many of the volunteers cite the satisfaction that they obtain from being able to make a significant difference for those they assist. Another frequent volunteer attorney, Richard (Buzz) Hannum, says, “The regularity with which the users of the program express appreciation for the guidance provided is undisputed evidence of the value of the program. I continue to volunteer because there is no question in my mind that I am helping those who seek my guidance.” Operating each Monday in the Self Help Center of the New Castle County Courthouse, the program served over 200 individuals in the area of family law during fiscal year 2009. Assistance is generally available only by appointment.
A free continuing legal education program on family law is being planned for the fall at Widener School of Law. Participants will receive CLE credits and it is hoped that many use the knowledge they gain to volunteer in the Limited Pro Bono Assistance Program. Persons interested in obtaining assistance or attorneys interested in volunteering may contact Mary Ann Hillis at (302) 255-0480.