Collaborating with Pro Bono Counsel to Serve the Community

I remember the first time I walked into my lawyer’s office in downtown San Francisco.  I had never been in an elevator before, and here I was, standing on the 35th floor.  I didn’t have that many clothes after I had to escape, and I felt so nervous, standing in that fancy office in my jeans.  But my lawyer was so nice to me.  I could tell that she was really busy, but still cared a lot about my case even though I wasn’t paying her.  Through many meetings, my lawyer always had a tissue box ready for me when I was feeling sad talking about what happened to me, and always words of encouragement.  When I was finally able to get my green card, she was the first person I thought of to call.  I am so thankful to the time she took out of her long work hours and day to help me.

API Legal Outreach client who received a U-visa through a pro bono attorney’s efforts

Each year, API Legal Outreach receives many calls for help than we can assist.  API Legal Outreach relies on pro bono attorneys to help reach the myriad of those in need, offering their dedication, time, legal skills, and patience to provide assistance to the elderly, children, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

API Legal Outreach works to ensure that pro bono partners have a fulfilling relationship with the client, ownership of the case, yet constant mentoring and assistance from other attorneys with expertise in the legal work.  API Legal Outreach provides training and seminars to attorneys willing to take on cases, pairing volunteers with an API Legal Outreach staff attorney, who facilitates the introduction to the client, remains available to answer questions and offer guidance, and handles any filing and post-filing representation.  In certain cases, API Legal Outreach serves as co-counsel in complex litigation matters with pro bono partners, sometimes with other community organizations.

Through the efforts of our pro bono attorneys, API Legal Outreach is able to effectively leverage our resources and handle more cases than our staffing capacity ordinarily might allow.  Our clients have relied on the expertise and enthusiasm of pro bono attorneys to help clients file VAWA and I-751 waiver petitions on behalf of abused immigrant men and women as well as U and T-status applications for victims of crime and human trafficking.  Pro bono attorneys have also represented current and former clients in civil litigation arising out of the underlying crimes, ranging from sexual assault, notario fraud, to human trafficking. These cases have resulted in restitution and thousands of dollars of monetary restitution.

API Legal Outreach’s pro bono opportunities can offer a variety of experience that cannot be duplicated elsewhere, involving work in different jurisdictions, court, and legal fields, and clients that pro bono attorneys otherwise may not have an opportunity to work in or with.  Pro bono cases directly impact people’s lives in a meaningful and important way, where our client’s lives and health are constantly at stake.

This year, API Legal Outreach’s pro bono partners demonstrated their commitment to public service and acted as community leaders by treating their skills as a profession, not just a job.  API Legal Outreach applauds their sincere and remarkable efforts, and thanks them for their contribution.

A sample of the some of the victories that pro bono attorneys assisted or clients in achieving this year include:

  • Preparing and filing civil suit for victims from Asia, Africa, and South America for their enslavement and inhumane treatment by their traffickers;
  • Obtaining U-status for three sisters from Mexico who were survivors of childhood sexual assault;
  • Obtaining U-status for a young woman from Eastern Europe who had been kidnapped and assaulted by an ex-boyfriend;
  • Successfully obtaining legal permanent resident status for a Filipino woman abused by her husband;
  • Successfully obtaining legal permanent resident status for a young Vietnamese woman abused by her husband and mother-in-law; and
  • Granting of permanent residency for three Korean tourists who, as a result of robbery and assault, previously had been granted U status.
  • Granting of permanent residency for a Sri Lankan man who had lived in the U.S. since 1991, and was the single parent to three U.S. citizen children

For more information, please contact Christine Hoang at choang [at] apilegaloutreach.org.