The Pro-Se Divorce Clinic

The Pro-Se Divorce Clinic

Originally published on Jun 16, 2016

The Pro-Se Divorce Clinic serves those who may not otherwise be able to afford legal counsel.

The Pro-Se Divorce Clinic model began in the fall of 2013 to address the huge gap between individuals who could afford to retain private counsel for family law legal issues and those who were financially unable to do so.  Pro-se is a Latin phrase meaning “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf”.

The Family Law section of the Lake County Bar Association recognized that many individuals in the latter group were income eligible for legal aid services, but could not be served due to Legal Aid’s lack of staff attorneys and volunteer attorneys to handle the high volume of requests.

The desire to provide legal services to this unrepresented group led a group of local legal professionals to the idea of a quarterly divorce clinic.

Judge Colleen A. Falkowski of the domestic relations division of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas offered her courtroom.

Ann Porath and Kari White of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland offered to host the event and prescreen the applicants.

Attorney Ann S. Bergen, then president of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, developed the simplified forms which would be completed for every individual prior to each clinic.

Anna Parise, attorney at Dworken & Bernstein and Darya J. Klammer, attorney of The Klammer Law Office, Ltd., serves as co-chairs of the Family Law section of the Lake County Bar Association.

They began to recruit volunteer attorneys to assist with the program.

As domestic relations and family law attorneys in private practice, we recognized that obtaining attorneys to volunteer several hours of their time on a quarterly basis may be a challenge.

To overcome this obstacle, we provide breakfast and offer free CLEs, as well as networking opportunities to volunteer attorneys. Judge Colleen A. Falkowski and other judges are present for the breakfast and usually at the clinic. In fact, Judge Colleen A. Falkowski has presented certificates of recognition to each attorney who has volunteered their time.

The Pro-Se Clinic has benefited

Being an integral part of the Lake County Pro-Se Divorce Clinic has benefited us inasmuch as I see the difference leadership in the community makes to those in need. Additionally, on a professional level, I have had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with other leaders of the legal community who are committed to servicing the community and get other attorneys to join in the commitment.

Others seeking to mirror our clinic model

Given the huge success of our clinic, surrounding counties in Ohio and other states are seeking to mirror our clinic model.

We were honored to have received an award for our volunteerism through Legal Aid and recently had the opportunity to present at a national conference in Austin, Texas on this this topic.

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