Legal Matters

Lafayette Bar Association Answers the Call

by Patrick Flanagan

Responsible representation is our promise.

The role of an attorney is multi-faceted, and the most important term associated with that role is "representation." In service to the legal profession, an attorney represents the interests of members in the local, state or American bar associations. When an attorney enrolls in a legal matter, the attorney represents the interest of the client. Representation of others remains an important constant in the thread of the life of an attorney.

Limited access to effective representation for the disenfranchised is at the core of what contributes to the vulnerability of the American justice system. The ongoing battle for funds to assist individuals who are unable to afford legal representation remains an important factor for agencies that deliver services to the public.

Indigent defense and legal-aid agencies would prefer to shift the focus from systemic deficiencies to the more critical work of providing advocacy.

However, the lack of funds ultimately affects the ability to provide necessary services and allocate resources to the public. As a result, local, state and American bar associations are engaging attorney and judge members to educate themselves and volunteer their time to also provide services to the public.

Since its inception in 1972, the Lafayette Bar Association has emerged as one of the most preeminent bar associations in the country. The organization is a voluntary organization of approximately 900 members that continues to evolve. The growth and success of the organization is due to the commitment of its members and their dedication to assuring that Lafayette has an organization that can deliver quality services to not only its members, but the public as well. LBA members are resolved in making sure that the volunteer work they are engaged in is symbolic of the LBA motto: "Motivated by Justice, Inspired by Service."

LBA provides legal education and training to its members throughout the year. This legal education and training is in a number of different practice areas, affording local attorneys an opportunity to compete with attorneys from across the country when it comes to effectively representing clients.

LBA is the resource for our local community in all things "legal." The organization strives to give back to the community to provide services that can assist the public in obtaining effective representation. A law library is located at LBA headquarters that the public can utilize to access law books and other legal resources. When an individual has a legal problem and wants to locate an attorney in a particular practice area, the LBA Lawyer Referral Service is a resource available on the LBA's website, providing a list of local attorneys in different practice areas.

Each year, the Lafayette Young Lawyers Association hosts the high school mock trial competition to educate high school students about the importance of advocacy. LBA supports and is committed to the continued growth and development of Northside High as the "Law Signature School."

On Feb. 15, two Northside High teams won the final round of the high school mock trial competition and will go on to compete in the state competition in Shreveport on March 29.

LBA also answers the call in providing effective representation through advocacy-centered programming. The LYL provides legal advice to the public at LBA's Advice, Attorney, Answers free legal seminar. Free wills are also provided by the LYL to first responders through the Wills for Heroes program. In addition, the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society provides free will seminars to the public.

Dedication to advocacy is a fundamental part of what keeps LBA members committed to voluntarily remaining part of the organization. LBA is also engaged in supporting and partnering with other agencies and nonprofits. The LBA's Family Law Section holds a silent auction to assist with raising funds for the visitation center, Avec Les Enfants. Family lawyers believe it is important to make sure that there is a safe center where the parents they represent can visit with their children.

The Lafayette Volunteer Lawyers answers the call through programs such as the Protective Order Panel. LBA, in its partnership with Faith House, provides those in physically abusive relationships with free legal representation. Upon filing a protective order with the court, LBA can be contacted for assistance. The Lafayette Volunteer Lawyers, through its partnership with Acadiana Legal Service Corporation, represents individuals that meet the national poverty guidelines in the areas of divorce and custody.

Lafayette has a dynamic legal community, and LBA members are a cohesive group of attorneys who take pride in the importance of educating attorneys to responsibly represent clients and answer the call of serving the public in areas that may not be able to be met by dedicated agencies.

LBA is rooted in this community and in its belief that service to others inspires others to serve.

Tricia R. Pierre is president of the Lafayette Bar Association. Pierre is an attorney who has been committed to access to justice issues throughout her legal career and practiced as a criminal defense attorney with the Public Defender's Office for 14 years. In 2008, Pierre was awarded the President's Award by the Louisiana State Bar Association for her work on issues related to diversity in the legal profession.