Those who need legal advice about divorce, child custody, domestic violence and other issues related to family law can now get a free 20 minute consultation with an attorney volunteering through the Lawyers in the Library Program, part of the Pro Bono Project (www.probonoproject.org), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1986.
“Right now, pro bono attorneys, including myself, are volunteering,” said Nishtha Jolly, a Managing Attorney at the Pro Bono Project. “Attorneys are required to do a certain number of pro bono hours a year. So this is a good way to give attorneys a chance to get their pro bono hours done while providing services in a setting community members would be comfortable with.
“While we are sheltering in place, we have three partnerships that are operational, and we have two more partnerships we are working on,” Jolly continued. “One of these organizations is the Billy DeFrank Center and the other one is the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara. We partner with agencies in the community, whether they are libraries, community centers or religious organizations.”
The Pro Bono Project’s Lawyers in the Library Program has an existing partnership with the Santa Clara City Library. Because of the pandemic, consultations are presently done over the phone.
“We offer this program two times a week by appointment only — every Monday 12-2 p.m. and Wednesday 3-5 p.m.,” said Nevin Alhaz Akaydin, Acting Program Coordinator of Adult Services at the Santa Clara City Library. “Services can include advice or referral to other resources. When someone goes to our website or the Pro Bono Project’s website, there is a link of available sessions. They click on a link that works for them, provide their first and last name, as well as their issue.
“If someone doesn’t have internet access, then they can call the library. We have reference phone hours and we can make an appointment for them,” Alhaz Akaydin continued. “This program is very popular. This program started in September 2020.”
Alhaz Akaydin pointed out that the Pro Bono Project offers a one-time service only.
“If someone has already received legal advice from the Pro Bono Project through any program before, they will not be called,” Alhaz Akaydin said. “Also, if someone already has an attorney for an issue, but they are contacting the Pro Bono Project for a second opinion or any other reason, the attorneys can’t work with them.”
The Santa Clara City Library offers resources for those seeking assistance in areas outside of family law.
“People seeking advice about tenant and landlord issues, such as evictions, can get assistance from a library program called Project Sentinel, offered twice a month,” Alhaz Akaydin said. “People with immigration and citizenship questions can attend a monthly library program run by the International Rescue Committee providing citizenship application help once a month.”
Visit http://www.sclibrary.org/ for more details, including making an appointment, about the Lawyers in the Library Program through the Santa Clara City Library.