Legal Matters

LBA: Motivated by Justice, Inspired by Service

by Patrick Flanagan

All jokes aside, Acadiana lawyers are volunteers at heart.

All jokes aside, Acadiana lawyers are volunteers at heart.

As long as there have been lawyers, there have been lawyer jokes. Perhaps lawyers make for an easy target, as you find a lawyer on each side of just about every issue. Some ascribe blame for the age old criticism of lawyers to the adversarial system that employs them. Others would certainly opine that at least some lawyers have earned their poor reputations.

Blake David

That said, the judiciary - made up of lawyers - has long been the most trusted of our three branches of government. According to a September 2012 Gallup Poll, the judicial branch has with one exception, 1972, always been more trusted than the legislative and executive branches. Americans trusted the judicial branch most in the late 1990s. Even in recent years, when trust in the other two branches has fallen, the judiciary held its own. In 2012, 67 percent of those polled by Gallup had a great deal/fair amount of trust in the judicial branch. (It's also worth noting that 25 of our 44 presidents were lawyers.)

From Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Mahatma Gandhi, many lawyers have been revered for their contributions to society. A lawyer has to be accomplished in school, earn a juris doctorate degree, pass the bar exam and satisfy the ethical and professional requirements to be licensed and stay licensed as a lawyer. Still, the worldwide disparagement of lawyers dating back to the works of Shakespeare and even the Bible persist in current portrayals of lawyers in film and on television.

At the local level, the Lafayette Bar Association and its lawyer members overcome the ugly perception of lawyers through a real-life dedication to community service. Begun in 1969 by a handful of attorneys with assets that fit in a shoe box, the LBA has grown to a membership of about 900 attorneys and judges and is the third largest local bar association in the state.

The LBA embodies all that is good with lawyers and the legal profession. At its core, the Lafayette legal community includes leaders in all areas of practice: lawyers who play active roles in our local government and lawyers who volunteer their time to give back to our community, our citizenry and our state. You'd be hard-pressed to find a local nonprofit board without one or more LBA members serving as members or founders. Our volunteer members and those they serve represent a broad cross section of our community - encompassing each race, gender and age.

The LBA is a resource for our community's legal needs. The public can access our online lawyer referral service and identify a local attorney to help with a specific legal need. Our law library is free to the public and includes complete online Westlaw access to cases, statutes, laws and treatises.

The LBA's award-winning Lafayette Volunteer Lawyers program matches low-income people in need of civil legal assistance with lawyer members offering their time and talents pro bono. The organization, which is committed to curbing domestic violence in our community, is a volunteer effort providing free legal representation to any victim of violent situations. In 2012 alone, the Lafayette Volunteer Lawyers helped 2,495 people in the Acadiana area free of charge (many of whom were in need of protective orders).

In addition to receiving the Lafayette Bar Association's Large Firm Award for volunteer service for the sixth consecutive year in 2013, Laborde & Neuner was recognized at the national level by the Legal Services Corporation in a ceremony held at the Louisiana Supreme Court earlier this year. Pictured are L&N attorneys Cliff LaCour, Lauren Courville and Frank Neuner, Legal Services Corporation President Jim Sandman, and L&N attorneys Mickey deLaup, Will Montz and Jeff Coreil

The LBA works closely with Lafayette Catholic Services and Faith House to assist Acadiana's poor and homeless. The LBA sponsors annual legal clinics at our bar headquarters, where the public is invited to learn about various topics of law and get questions answered at no cost.

In 2012, the Lafayette Young Lawyers of the LBA provided free legal advice to 78 people at "Advice Attorney Answers," helped more than 50 families at the Miles Perret Center, assisted 45 high school students for Law Week, hosted the regional Mock trial (won by Northside High School) and conducted a "Wills for Heroes" campaign writing free wills for first responders.

LBA members and their firms were recognized by the Louisiana State Bar for their dedication and service with statewide pro bono and professionalism awards.

While lawyers will always remain a target for easy humor, the ongoing good works of the LBA in fulfillment of its mission - Motivated by Justice and Inspired by Service - will continue to shed light on all that is right and just with lawyers in our area.

Blake David is president of the Lafayette Bar Association. An attorney with Broussard & David law firm in Lafayette, David has been named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers, "AV" by Martindale Hubble, and Top 100 Trial Lawyers and Top 40 Under 40 by National Trial Lawyers.

[Editor's Note: With this inaugural "Legal Matters" feature, ABiz is launching a series of legal columns that will appear in the monthly publication. Lawyers throughout the Acadiana area will be asked to contribute columns on a range of topics, covering timely matters and specific legal issues, as well as general information important to the profession. Our goal is to publish 12 columns a year, though space considerations will dictate frequency. ABiz is available on newsstands and direct mailed to Acadiana's top decision-makers. If you or someone in your firm is interested in contributing a column, contact Editorial Director Leslie Turk at [email protected]]