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September 3, 2003

New Law School Program Offers Legal Aid
To Non-Profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations throughout the Capitol Region will now be ablehave access to access free legal advice from top attorneys, thanks to a new collaborative program, the Non-Profit Pro Bono Initiative.

The program is a partnership among the University of Connecticut School of Law's Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative Inc. (CULI), the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, several major corporate legal departments, and two prominent law firms.

The Hartford Foundation awarded CULI an initial one-year, $100,000 grant to implement the initiative. The grant was matched through a consortium of funding from United Technologies Corporation, Phoenix Life Insurance Co., Aetna Inc., The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford Steamboiler Inspection Insurance Co., Northeast Utilities, and The Travelers Insurance Co., as well as the Hartford law firms of Day, Berry & Howard and Robinson & Cole. The funders anticipate continuing their support for the program.

Lawyers from the corporate legal departments and law firms will volunteer to implement the initiative, which will match non-profit organizations with volunteer lawyers who specialize in the fields of law most suited to the organizations' needs.

CULI has hired attorney Regina M. Hopkins as director of the initiative. For the past six years, Hopkins served as assistant commission counsel for the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

According to Nell Newton, dean of the Law School and chair of CULI's board of directors, the grant will allow the school to expand significantly the amount of community service it already provides in Connecticut.

"President Austin has emphasized the importance of finding ways for the University's graduate schools to expand our services to Connecticut's taxpayers," says Newton. "This generous grant from a broad collaborative of the business community and the Hartford Foundation will enable the Law School to respond to the President's challenge and substantially increase the number of non-governmental organizations we serve in the Capitol Region. This is consistent with the best traditions of the Law School, the Connecticut Bar, and the entire University."

William R. Breetz, an attorney and the president of CULI, is also enthusiastic about the new effort.

"With this important new funding, we hope to be able to at least double the number of non-profit clients that CULI can serve in the first year," says Breetz.

"The initiative will also provide lawyers working in-house at Hartford's larger corporations and law firms the opportunity to participate in pro bono legal activities more closely suited to their areas of expertise, he adds. "We welcome the opportunity to work with these volunteers on behalf of the many non-profit organizations that today cannot afford the legal services they may need."

Michael Bangser, executive director of the Hartford Foundation, adds, "Many non-profits in the area, especially smaller ones, find themselves unable to afford the legal expertise they need. The services of these volunteer lawyers will be a welcome benefit to these non-profits, many of which are facing funding cuts in other areas."

CULI is a non-profit organization located on the Law School campus in Hartford's West End. Its attorneys provide non-litigation legal services to non-profit organizations addressing issues of urban blight in Hartford, Waterbury, and other communities.

While providing these legal services, CULI offers Law School students the opportunity to learn legal transactions in a clinical setting, under the supervision of CULI's attorneys. The UConn Law School, New England's only public law school, has strong programs in clinical law, intellectual property, insurance law, and international law.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Capitol Region. It focuses on building successful partnerships with donors and non-profits to help make life better for people in the community.

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