Attorney Zoa Barnes openly admits that the efforts in her life of which she is most proud she did for free.
Barnes, a partner in the Westminster firm of Hill & Barnes, uses her unique legal skills to assist in the Carroll County Family Law Pro Se Clinic, which she has done for the past nine years. She has also been known to accept quite challenging pro bono cases. While most of her cases involve family/domestic law, Barnes also works on helping the disabled, children and the elderly with domestic violence, guardianship, wills and education issues. She further serves as a volunteer for the Women’s Law Center’s Family Law Hotline.
In light of her expertise and experience providing legal representation with such cases, Barnes was requested by the Carroll County Circuit Court to provide pro bono legal services for a very special case. A disabled woman going through a divorce had been battling for five years to win custody of her children. The client had previously suffered a series of strokes, which left her subsequently unable to speak and making it painful to move. One of the several challenges of the case for Barnes was communication with her client. Conversations were made possible by the client pointing at letters of the alphabet on an alphabet card to spell words; nevertheless, this made even simple conversations take hours to complete.
Barnes diligently and patiently worked with her client, even in her own home, and the woman was able to use a kind of typing device in court to give input and respond to questions. Barnes then “went the extra mile” by becoming involved in her client’s psychological assessments and the role of social services played in the case. Barnes’ legal involvement in this case spanned four years of her professional legal career, included a six-day trial and exceeded well over the 50-hour target that lawyers are recommended to provide in pro bono hours per year.
“With the disabled, it’s easy to feel that you don’t have to try because you won’t win custody,” says Barnes. “But this woman wanted a custody case, and she got it.” At the end of the case, Barnes’ client was not awarded custody of her children; however, she was awarded liberal visitation with them. Without the pro bono legal assistance of Zoa Barnes, this would not have been accomplished.
Barnes candidly states that “pro bono requires hard work, creativity and commitment. The things I am most proud of in my life, I did for free. That includes raising my family, caring for my elderly parents, volunteering for a variety of charities and my pro bono legal work.” Barnes was recognized as the “pro bono star” for Carroll County at the 20th Anniversary Benefit Gala for the Pro Bono Resource Center in 2010.
For more information on volunteer legal service opportunities in Maryland, contact Sharon E. Goldsmith at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana Rogers is the Marketing and Development Coordinator at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.