ORLANDO, Fla. – There are times in life when many of us will need the help of an attorney, but those services can come with a hefty cost.
For folks with limited income, the assistance can be out of reach.
Many turn to Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF). The nonprofit offers free legal service and advice, in civil cases, to those who qualify.
To do that, they rely on private attorneys who donate their time. It’s called “pro bono” or without charge.
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Representatives of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida said one attorney stands out as a “pro bono champion.”
Orlando attorney, Carlos Leach, was nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award for his years of service and the number of clients he’s been able to help.
Leach, who specializes in employment law, has helped more than 360 clients over the years.
“I had no idea it was that many people,” Leach said with a smile. “I’ve just been doing it for years.”
Leach said the more he learned about CLSMF the more he wanted to help.
“Many times we speak to people over the phone and you can hear the despair in their voice. You can hear that they need help and so if we can provide advice to somebody or take the case and bring them some type of relief then it’s definitely worth it.”
Lena Hopkins is the Manager of Pro Bono Services for CLSMF. She searches for attorneys willing to donate their time.
“All of our clients are low income, they can not afford an attorney and what we do makes a difference. It makes all of the difference in the world.” Hopkins said from her office in Ocala.
Hopkins scrolls through a database with nearly 700 attorneys who have volunteered to help. She said 200 are active and working cases at any given time.
“The fact that he has longevity and the fact that he has helped over 360 clients with legal issues. He has helped them maintain income, he’s collected unpaid wages he’s done the work in employment discrimination.”
“I see it as an obligation, Leach said. “If it’s the type of case we take, and we can take the case, we’ll certainly do it.”
Hopkins told News 6 he never says no.
Jeff Harvey, CEO of CLSMF, said there are just not enough resources to go around. Harvey said pro bono attorneys play an important role.
“We could not do the work that we do without the help of pro bono attorneys,” he said.
Harvey said less than 10% of Florida attorneys take pro bono cases.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have the ones we have,” Harvey said.
“People like attorney Leach, not only is he taking cases and supporting the program but he’s gotten a number of other attorneys to do it,” Harvey said.
In addition, Leach has also mentored, trained and developed a course to help the staff of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida process their cases.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize those individuals in our community who do good work and give back.” Hopkins said. “He’s a great guy, he deserves the recognition.”