MIAMI -- On Nov. 7, the Florida Bar Foundation brought on Anais Taboas as its new pro bono program officer.
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In this role, Taboas hopes to significantly increase the flow of opportunities, connections and support among attorneys in South Florida, and, as a result, ensure greater ease of access to legal services for underprivileged clients in South Florida.
Having previously served as a private attorney involvement coordinator, Taboas is no stranger to linking attorneys to pro bono opportunities. Much of Taboas’ work will consist of doing exactly that, while making overall improvements to the circulation of support, connections and opportunities among South Florida’s lawyers.
“It is important to discover what individual attorneys are passionate about and pair them up with a program that serves that area. Another way we can encourage attorneys to engage in pro bono service is by providing them trainings in the area of law they’re interested in through webinars or in-person seminars,” Taboas told the Florida Record. “The goal is to make it easy for a volunteer attorney to engage in pro bono service.”
Toboas' responsibility as a pro bono opportunity coordinator will also include connecting younger and less-experienced attorneys to potential mentors and the support systems in place, which will often mean sharing information in a way that will maximize attorneys’ connectedness with local organizations and each other. This kind of networking and the knowledge of available support would, in theory, reduce some attorneys’ hesitancy to take on bigger or less familiar types of cases and encourage more of them to take on pro bono cases.
“One of the goals is to act as a connector for all things pro bono in South Florida,” said Taboas. “We would like to see more collaborations between service organizations and members of the Florida Bar in order to provide a better access to justice. Another goal is increasing the use of technology in order to break down any barriers to an individual’s access to legal assistance or the courts. “
On Oct. 26, Florida Bar President William J. Schifino Jr. issued a statement to all members of the Florida Bar, challenging them to collectively donate at least two million hours of pro bono service to low-income litigants, a 300,000-hour hike from the 1.7 million pro bono hours donated by Florida attorneys in 2015.
While the Florida Bar Foundation does not handle cases itself, Taboas’ game plan for connecting attorneys to the available resources is designed to help Florida’s lawyers reach Schifino’s two-million-hour goal by the end of 2017. Taboas has said that her role in making this happen would “include increasing the effectiveness of the outstanding pro bono programs and projects already in place,”
"I also intend to provide support to the pro bono circuit committees in South Florida," Taboas said.
Taboas has previously served as an associate attorney with Parrish, White & Yarnell P.A. and as private attorney involvement coordinator and program attorney with Florida Rural Legal Services.