MIAMI — The Florida Bar Foundation
hopes its Everyone Counts initiative will lead to answers on just how
many pro bono attorneys are needed and just how many people are
representing themselves in court.
“There’s always talk about
the need for pro bono attorneys, but how do we know there is a need,
just because?” Ericka Garcia, the Foundation's director of pro bono
partnerships, told the Florida Record. “We wanted to have
the data to back this up and help guide us to the next
Miami-Dade attorneys were set to find out for Everyone
Counts Day on March 20 by visiting courthouses in the county to learn
the needs of those who are representing themselves in court, WLRN
Foundation said on its website
that Everyone Counts was the brainchild of Florida Bar Foundation
board member Angela Vigil of Baker and Mackenzie in Miami, and it is
believed to be the first project of its kind.
Garcia said the
Foundation will analyze and review the data from the study to
determine the appropriate next step. The results of the Everyone
Counts data are expected to be released on April 20.
is a large pool of self-represented litigants in Miami-Dade County
that, based on the data, could have been more successful with their
court cases by having a pro bono attorney — we hope it will
highlight the need and encourage attorneys to take a pro bono case,”
To that end, Garcia said the Foundation has launched
an interactive website, Florida Pro Bono Matters, which will be
rolled out by the end of September.
Garcia said on the
that the interactive website will allow attorneys interested in doing
pro bono work to “filter and search for cases that suit their
“Pro bono attorneys I’ve met with from across
the state over the last year have all been telling me this is exactly
the tool they want,” Garcia said. “It enables them to see in real
time what pro bono cases are available and creates efficiencies for
both the attorney and the legal aid organization.”
Services of Greater Miami, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and CABA
Pro Bono Legal Services will
display cases on the site for which they need pro bono legal
services. Most of Miami-Dade County’s pro bono programs are
eventually expected to be part of the program.
Before the Everyone
Counts data is analyzed, Garcia said it would be premature to say
just what may be driving an increase in self-representation, but cost
is likely a factor.
“The cost of hiring an attorney is out of
reach for lots of Floridians,” she said.
Garcia said funding is
down for low-income Floridians across the state. She also said some
people feel that that they need an attorney to help them with their
cases, such as in small-claims-court matters.