What is Put Something Back (“PSB”) The Official Program for Providing Bro Bono, or Free Legal Assistance to the Needy Population of Miami-Dade County, designed to increase access to the civil legal system and improve the administration of justice by serving as an umbrella agency for referral to all other legal service providers and as a clearinghouse for attorneys who volunteer to help the indigent of the community. Through this project, clients are referred to volunteer attorneys experienced in a wide range of legal matters, including: family cases; children’s matters requiring Guardians Ad Litem in family, juvenile dependency, domestic violence, probate and civil court; consumer, bankruptcy; and housing concerns; domestic violence permanent injunction matters; general civil issues; social security and veterans benefits; employment matters; the preparation and processing of Wills; and, non-fee generating civil court cases. Since 1991, the program has handled thousands of cases and recruited thousands of attorneys, including private, corporate counsel and law firms who have signed up to assist. It is the largest and most comprehensive pro bono project in Florida.
What about professional liability insurance? When you accept a case through PSB, you are covered by our E&O insurance for free. If you have your own insurance, PSB insurance is in excess of any other. If you are uninsured, it is primary for any covered claims so long as you have followed program procedures.
What if I cannot accept the case referred to me? If you are unable to accept the case referred, you must IMMEDIATELY contact the client and PSB at (305) 579 – 5733 ext. 2249 or email@example.com. Once a case is referred to you, it is deemed accepted until or unless you notify PSB otherwise.
I am a criminal, government, corporate or PI attorney. How can I accept a case? PSB has a wide range of cases for volunteers including expungement cases, minor settlements and contracts. We will train you if you are unfamiliar with the case categories offered. PSB provides FREE CLE accredited training courses and has experienced attorneys willing to assist you in all areas as mentors. Forms and manuals are available upon request. (Click here for more information)
I am retired or not presently practicing law, or I have no office or staff. What can I do? PSB needs your assistance. Retired and inactive attorneys may become “Emeritus” lawyers and accept cases under the supervision of a Legal Aid staff attorney or may assist with client intake. You also may donate funds, participate in pro se clinics, provide training, refer cases, be a mentor, or help prepare forms and handbooks. Training and assistance are available to all participants.
I volunteer at my church, provide wills for my neighbors or help the Girl Scouts. Does that qualify for PSB? PSB’s goal is to recruit all members of the private bar to provide legal representation to the poor so that they will have equal access to the judicial system. General community service is commended but will not qualify, nor will legal work for a non-eligible client organization.
Participation in an approved pro bono legal project will qualify. You must notify this office upon acceptance of a referral from a qualifying project in order to be credited. If you or your group want to begin a qualifying project, contact PSB for approval and assistance.
How many hours and how many cases am I expected to handle? PSB volunteers contribute a minimum of 20 hours of legal services per year or “buy-in” for $350.00 per year to Legal Aid.
When is a case completed? After accepting a case, the attorney is expected to complete the case to final resolution, not including an appeal.
Who pays costs? All pro bono clients are low income. The Affidavit of Indigency is the official court document which must be filed in order for the clerk to waive filing fees, serve process, make copies, or publish notices of action. For Bankruptcy cases, there is a different form for filing for indigency status. Very limited funds are available to pay other costs (e.g. depositions, expert witnesses). If the client cannot pay and you need to expend these or other costs, you must call PSB first for approval. Only approved costs will be reimbursed. Mediation services are available to pro bono attorneys at no cost.
What if I collect a fee? Where possible, volunteers should seek to recover fees and costs from opposing parties. All fees and costs collected are rebated to PSB and will help defray the costs of other cases. (Click here for Cost Recovery Agreement).
How does the program work? Put Something Back “PSB” accepts applications online at www.dadelegalaid.org and through a secure telephonic intake system 305-579-5733. If you are income eligible and qualify for the program’s services, and PSB has located an available pro bono attorney to handle your case, PSB will notify you by mail or email. PSB does not handle fee generating cases, or cases where someone is suing another party for damages. The project does not accept emergencies.
Who can receive free legal assistance through Put Something Back? You may be eligible for free legal assistance through Put Something Back if: 1) Your household income is not greater than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, 2) You are a resident of Miami-Dade County, 3) You have a civil legal matter that is handled by Put Something Back’s volunteer attorneys, and 4) You have not already been advised that you do not qualify. To find out if you may qualify for free legal assistance through this program, you must apply and be screened by the program.
What type of legal matters are handled by this program? In general, the following civil court matters are handled by Put Something Back’s volunteer attorneys: family cases; children’s matters requiring the appointment of Guardians Ad Litem or an Attorney ad Litem in juvenile, family, domestic violence, probate and civil court; consumer, bankruptcy, and housing concerns; domestic violence matters for persons seeking permanent injunctions for protection; employment matters; the preparation and processing of Wills; civil lawsuits where you are the party being sued and cannot afford an attorney. Put Something Back also coordinates the “Wills on Wheels” Program, which assists the homebound, incapacitated and elderly of our community who need help in the preparation of their Wills, but are unable to travel; Florida Patent Pro Bono Project; Financial Literacy Programs, Legal Services for Veterans, Venture Law; and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
What type of legal matters are not handled by this program? Cases that are not handled by the program include: Criminal, juvenile delinquency, personal injury, and traffic cases; civil cases where you are suing for money; small claims court cases (lawsuits up to $8,000), unless unusual circumstances exist; cases that can be settled by existing court mediation programs, such as landlord/tenant mediation; child support enforcement cases processed by the State Attorney’s Office; any case, except a domestic violence permanent injunction matter, for which you need emergency legal attention within 21 days of your applying for the program’s services; and, cases that can be handled by the Legal Aid Society or another program. To find out if your particular case qualifies, you must be screened by program staff.
How do I apply for the program’s services?
The fastest and easiest way to apply is on line www.dadelegalaid.org or call 305-579-5733 ext. 2264
What do I need to apply for the program’s services?
Please be prepared to provide upon request the following information to verify that you qualify for the program::
1) A picture ID, such as a driver’s license, passport or resident card showing that you are a resident of Miami-Dade County;
2) If you or other members of your household are employed, copies of pay stubs or letters from employers stating incomes. If you or other members of your household are self-employed, notarized affidavits explaining the nature of the work and income;
3) If you or other members of your household receive any public assistance, social security or other documents to verify the amount of benefits;
4) Any other legal papers or other documents which will assist program staff in determining the type of legal assistance needed.
What happens if I fail to provide accurate information? If you misrepresent your income or the nature of your case, you may be rejected by the referral attorney. If your economic circumstances change at any time, you must notify the program’s staff immediately.
If I qualify for the program’s free legal services, will I be responsible for paying any costs?
Although your attorney’s services will be free, you may have to pay for depositions, expert witnesses and other costs, depending on the type and complexity of your case.
If a person does not speak English, when is an interpreter needed?
Put Something Back staff assists English, Spanish and Creole-speaking persons. However, when meeting with an attorney assigned to the case, persons who do not speak the language of their assigned attorney must bring an adult to translate for them. Although program staff try to match non-English speaking clients with attorneys who speak their language, this is not always possible. We do offer Spanish and Creole translators in certain circumstances.
If I don’t qualify for the program’s free legal services, who may I contact for legal assistance?
If you do not qualify under Put Something Back’s low income guidelines, or you have a case that is not handled by the program, please contact the Miami-Dade Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service which provides referrals to private attorneys for people who can afford to pay an attorney 1-888-305-5291. You may also visit the Florida Bar’s website at https://lrs.flabar.org. Information for Public Defender clients and their families can be found on the Public Defender’s web site at http://www.pdmiami.com
For further information about Put Something Back, who do I call?
To reach Put Something Back, contact the Legal Aid Society at (305)579-5733 ext. 2252.
NOTE: If you are a person with a disability and need assistance in contacting the Put Something Back office, please call the ADA Coordinator at Florida Relay Services by dialing 1-800-955-8771 (TDD). Ask to be connected to the Put Something Back project at telephone number (305) 579-5733 ext. 2252 or you may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I am a person with a disability and need assistance, who do I call?
If you are a person with a disability and need assistance in appearing in court or participating in a court program or service, please contact the Court ADA Coordinator, at: Voicemail: (305) 349-7175 TDD: (305) 349-7174 Fax No: (305) 349-7355
If you are a person with a disability and need assistance in contacting the Put Something Back office, please call the ADA Coordinator at Florida Relay Services by dialing 1-800-955-8771 (TDD). Ask to be connected to the Put Something Back project at telephone number (305) 579-579-5733 ext. 2252.