MADISON – More than ever before low-income Wisconsinites facing civil legal challenges are expected to receive free legal help from pro bono attorneys with the development of Wisconsin’s first statewide Pro Bono Opportunity Portalthanks to a partnership between the State Bar of Wisconsin and Paladin, a justice technology company.

The portal, which launched Nov. 19 at probonowi.org, comes as civil legal service organizations in Wisconsin face critical funding issues and are turning away nearly 50 percent of those who need legal help. Examples of civil legal challenges include landlord evictions, unpaid health care bills because of unemployment and child custody issues during the pandemic.

The new website will enable attorneys and law students to match their skills and interests with opportunities available through free legal agencies across the state, such as Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare. It will also allow the agencies to post their opportunities to a nationwide, American Bar Association-led Disaster Relief Pro Bono Portal to extend reach for COVID-19 specific pro bono work.

Kathleen Brost

“Civil legal aid programs in the state are telling us that pro bono assistance is crucial to making our shared goal of equal justice for all a reality,” said State Bar President Kathleen Brost in a news release. “Requests for legal services have surged with the recent pandemic, and increased pro bono engagement will greatly benefit people in need of critical legal services.

“Pro bono efforts by private attorneys and law students help their clients, the courts, and the profession by reducing barriers to justice and closing the justice gap by meeting the legal needs of all Wisconsin residents and ensuring a just and equitable legal system,” Brost said.