Samaritan Center honored during Missouri Bar Annual Meeting

Each year, The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section recognizes community organizations or law firms that actively encourage its employees or members to provide pro bono services. This year, during The Missouri Bar Foundation and Public Service Awards Luncheon, Sept. 21 at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, 2015-16 YLS Council Chair Brandon Corl presented a Pro Bono Award to The Samaritan Center Legal Care program. Karen Hess was on-site to accept the recognition on behalf of Lou Defeo and herself, both of whom are co-volunteer coordinators for the program.

Legal Care was formed in 2003 in Jefferson City with the motto “That all – rich or poor – may experience the system of justice as a place of fair play and of peace-making.” Since then, the program has served low-income persons in Mid-Missouri who could not afford an attorney in nearly 4,000 civil matters.

“When people come into the Samaritan Center they frequently come in because they’re hungry, because that’s the main service, and then they maybe come to realize the reason they’re hungry and need food is a legal problem. Their children aren’t getting child support, they’ve lost their job, maybe lost their housing because of a legal problem,” said Defeo.

Legal Care brings together law students, paralegals and attorneys from all walks of life and matches these volunteers with needy persons. Client situations are varied – for example, some are unable to appear pro se while others might have a legal matter that requires a lawyer’s ongoing expertise. Regardless of the circumstances, Legal Care offers a space for them to work with a lawyer – and for new lawyers or law students to build experience.

“We can benefit young lawyers in so many ways because we take what they learned in law school and then connect it up with a real person’s problems. And a legal problem is ultimately a human problem, so they can see the real-life ramifications of the legal system and how it affects people,” said Hess.

Click here to see a video of Defeo and Hess discussing their work and recognition.

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