This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Alabama State Bar’s Volunteer Lawyers Program. As a way to thank all of our volunteers, we selected 30 representatives and have been sharing their stories over the past year. Each volunteer represents hundreds of others who have made the program successful. That success is not confined to the program, but is shared with every volunteer and every client who received assistance.
In our final part of this series, we also recognize the plus one, VLP Director Linda Lund. Her work and the work of past directors have truly made an impact on civil legal aid services. Thank you to everyone who plays a role in expanding access to justice. We can make a difference together!
Emily L. Baggett, City Attorney’s Office, Decatur
The motto of the Alabama State Bar is Lawyers Render Service. “As lawyers, we should be the ones leading our communities in setting the example that we choose to give back. We have the ability to save one or be the lifeline for someone with just a few hours of our time. I can’t imagine not giving a few hours each year to serving my community.”
Emily encourages others to get involved in pro bono work as a way to show citizens of your community that you care about them and want to help them. It also gives lawyers a chance to step out of their comfort zone or area of practice, to challenge them so that they continue to learn.
She got involved with the Volunteer Lawyers Program as a young lawyer when she volunteered at a Wills for Heroes Clinic. This clinic is near and dear to Emily’s heart because her brother is a firefighter and has been a recipient of these services. She remembers the gratitude in his voice when he told her, “You love being a lawyer and are trained to be one. I love being a firefighter, and I’m trained to be one. You know that if something happens, everything is taken care of, and I died doing what I love. Don’t you ever forget that.”
Emily has served as a bar commissioner and as a member of the Pro Bono Celebration Task Force and the Pro Bono Committee. Her passion for the Wills for Heroes clinics ignited her passion for providing the same services to a new group of heroes, healthcare workers. She is the co-chair of the Helping Healthcare Heroes Task Force, whose goal is to provide estate-planning documents for the men and women who have continued to serve and risk their lives during this pandemic.
David K. Hogg, The Hogg Law Firm, Dothan
Time management is key to having a successful practice, but how you manage your time also determines your personal success. David has found the perfect combination of pro bono work and paid legal assistance, giving back a small portion to the profession that has done so much for him. During his 25 years of practicing, he has truly intermingled the two.
David joined the VLP in 1998 and continues to make pro bono work a pillar of his practice. One of his professors explained, “Law is a profession and not a business. The purpose of a profession is to serve the public, and the purpose of a business is to make money.” David decided that day that he would be a professional and not a businessman.
As a volunteer, he has represented clients in contested domestic relation issues. These cases are often hard to place because of their inherent complexities, but David never wavered. He treated his pro bono clients with the same level of professionalism and expertise as the paying ones.
Some of his favorite pro bono activities are providing services to the first responders and frontline workers, explaining that serving those who serve us every day is extremely rewarding. David encourages everyone to get involved in pro bono work and believes that “if every lawyer would pitch in, we could correct some of the injustices in the world.”
Nancy M. Kirby, Nancy Kirby Law Office, Rockford and Prattville
Nancy started with the Volunteer Lawyers Program during her first year of law school and is still volunteering. Her passion for pro bono work stemmed from “thinking it would be nice to help others. And while that is, of course, still a perfectly good reason to do pro bono work, over the years [I] came to realize that ‘liberty and justice for all’ all too often really means ‘liberty and justice for all who can afford it.’ This was not okay with me.”
In private practice, Nancy handles a broad range of cases, but also takes on as many pro bono cases as she can. “If money were no object, it’s all that I would do,” she said. These cases are often domestic relations and probate matters with clients in desperate need of assistance.
Not every pro bono case results in a legal victory, but Nancy doesn’t feel that diminishes the value of the work. She explained, “When you help people because they need it, and because you can, when they know they cannot afford to pay you, even if we are not successful in winning their case, we have succeeded for a moment in time in restoring someone’s faith in humanity. We’ve encouraged another person and let them know they matter, in a very tangible way. That’s the biggest win there is.”
Nancy encourages others to volunteer because “the reward is to be reminded that you can make a huge difference in the life of another, just by giving a damn. Our justice system can work, but only as well as the people who work in it. Many hands make light work.”
David W. Trottier, Trottier Law LLC, Gadsden
Faith can be a driving force in what we do and how we respond. As a Christian, David has tried to pattern his life according to scripture. He was raised to always help the poor. “About 30 years ago, I had a dream that I was in a room with only a fireplace and a picture on the wall of Jesus. As I approached the picture, it began speaking to me. I fell on my face and told the picture, as it was speaking, that I was not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus. When I finally stopped talking to listen, the picture asked me what I wanted. Before I could think to answer with wealth, fame, or fortune, my response was to help other people. At that moment, Jesus smiled at me and nodded his head. Then I woke up.” After this dream, he knew exactly what he needed to do and how he needed to do it.
David joined the VLP in 2007 because he believed that “everyone is entitled to their day in court, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not.” He has represented his clients zealously to keep his promise and stay true to his faith. David knew that he was doing the right thing when this scripture came to mind, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40.”
Doing pro bono work has allowed David to put his faith into action, but also make a difference. One memorable case involved helping a client and her two young children get away from an abusive ex-husband. Without his aid, this family may not have escaped the situation.
He encourages lawyers to volunteer because “helping the poor is one of the best things that we can do.”
Albert L. Vreeland (deceased), Tuscaloosa
Legacy is determined by the impact that you had on the lives of others. Al had a major impact on his community and the legal profession and was recognized for his great work. In 1996, he received the first Alabama State Bar Pro Bono Award along with Pam Bucy and Luke Coley. In 2007, after his death, the Alabama State Bar renamed it the “Al Vreeland Pro Bono Award.”
This award recognizes an individual who demonstrates outstanding pro bono efforts through the active donation of time to the civil representation of those who cannot otherwise afford legal counsel and by encouraging greater legal representation in, and acceptance of, pro bono cases.
Al was vibrant and full of life. He never met a stranger and always had a smile. He loved people and tried to understand things from their point of view, even if they disagreed with him. His legacy survives him for being an attorney, social activist, and advocate for the legal rights of the poor. While his career path wasn’t the traditional one, it prepared him for the impact he made.
His career began as a minister in Alabama and Florida. His passion for helping people turned to working with social programs on alcohol abuse, prison reform, training for disadvantaged youth, and mental retardation. However, Al knew there was more to be done, so he moved to Washington, D.C., where he assisted with community organizing for inner-city neighborhoods. While there, he realized that there were barriers to what he could do, which spurred him to become a lawyer.
After graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law, he worked to expand access to justice. Al is remembered by his colleagues for his famous comment of “eliminating the lawyer tax.” He desired to eliminate the false complexity in the legal system to allow people to resolve their own issues whenever possible. Even though he integrated pro bono work in his practice, he knew that wouldn’t enough to fix the lack of civil legal aid. So, he got involved with organizations that worked to serve the poor. Al served on the Board of Directors of Legal Services Corporation of Alabama and the Alabama State Bar Access to Legal Services Committee, and was a huge supporter of the bar’s Volunteer Lawyers Program.
Albert Vreeland, II hopes his father’s life will continue to motivate and inspire lawyers to do more. When asked what advice he thinks his father would give to lawyers, he said, “Follow your passion in your legal practice, and don’t just use it as a way to make a living.”
Linda Lund, ASB Volunteer Lawyers Program Director
A leader is one who has a vision and works with a group to bring that to fruition, and the leaders of the Alabama State Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) are examples of that.
The program was officially sanctioned by the state bar in 1991. The first two directors were Melinda Waters (1991-1995) and Kim Ward (1995-1999). The third and current director is Linda Lund. These three leaders have built the foundations of pro bono work in Alabama.
The VLP offers a wide variety of civil legal aid services and in-person clinics, including Wills for Heroes, Senior Wills clinics, and Counsel and Advice clinics throughout 60 of the 67 counties.
Under Linda’s leadership, the program has flourished. She has helped secure over $3,500,000 in program funding, recruited hundreds of new volunteers, and serviced thousands of clients statewide. Without her tenacity, many vulnerable Alabamians would not have access to pro bono civil legal aid. Her passion for ensuring the program’s continued success and expansion led her to hire the first staff attorney. To show appreciation to the volunteers, she established the pro bono awards, recognizing the service of lawyers, and started the annual VLP reception at the Alabama State Bar Annual Meeting.
Linda started the Wills for Heroes program and secured cloud-based estate planning software to allow the clinics to take place anywhere there are computers. She also partnered with Judge Henry Callaway to begin the effort drafting state court forms for pro se litigants. Linda initiated the first monthly counsel and advice clinics in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa and led the charge for getting CLE credit for pro bono work.
She handles the coordination of the Disaster Response Line with the Young Lawyers’ Section and mentors new VLP directors. Her vast experience and knowledge make her a vital resource for the other lawyers in the state.
Linda has a heart for service and has dedicated her life to it. Her efforts have not only expanded the program for clients, but ignited a fire in attorneys to want to be a part of the cause. She is truly selfless in her service and others agree.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
Linda has been the face, the backbone, and the hands and feet of the state bar’s pro bono efforts for years. You cannot discuss pro bono services in Alabama, then or now, without Linda. She is a force! Cooper Shattuck
Linda set the standard for Alabama attorney volunteerism. She challenged us all to make our state better by helping those in need. Linda is Alabama’s pro bono icon! Cassandra Adams
Linda’s goal is singular and unwavering–help those unable to obtain proper legal services. This involves fundraising and recruiting, and her efforts are amazing. She is the face, force, and fabric of the greatest program our bar has to offer. Royal Dumas
Linda’s selfless spirit, positive attitude, and hard work are an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for all that you do! John Stamps
Linda has dedicated countless hours to growing pro bono efforts, and she provides leadership, guidance, and encouragement to the entire pro bono legal community. Timothy J.F. Gallagher
Knowing that “pro bono” means “for the public good” explains why Linda is truly the face of the ASB pro bono effort. She guides our efforts with joy, commitment, and vision, but it is her heart that leads us. Alyce Spruell
Linda has a giving heart for those who need help the most and a fighting spirit to make sure that they receive this help. The world is a better place because of her commitment to helping the most vulnerable receive access to justice!” Jeanne Dowdle Rizzardi
Linda lives the words of scripture to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. Sam Crosby
“Lawyers render service,” and Linda does. If she is around, things get done. She renders service which makes us render service better. Honza Prchal
Linda is always willing to collaborate behind the scenes to accomplish pro bono goals. She is a perfect representation of the important mission to promote and expand pro bono efforts. Allen Howell
Linda is always willing to help to further pro bono service in Alabama. I am thankful for her guidance and patience when I started as the MCVLP’s executive director and honored to call her my friend. Nicole Schroer
Linda’s devotion to providing legal aid to low-income residents is an inspiration to everyone working to make Alabama a more just state, and her approach is visionary and practical. Tracy Daniel
Linda’s commitment in the face of so many obstacles amazes me. She never passes the buck and is always willing to lend a hand. Kelly McTear