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The New Orleans Bar Association (NOBA) and the New Orleans Bar Foundation (NOBF) announce the start of their inaugural Public Interest Fellowship, beginning January 2015. The Fellow will be housed at the New Orleans office of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS), the largest nonprofit law firm in the State of Louisiana. This Fellowship, created and funded solely by a local bar association to provide civil legal aid at a local legal services program, is the first of its kind in the United States.

NOBA’s Fellowship will expand the availability of civil legal aid to low-income households in Orleans Parish, provide leadership opportunities for young lawyers, and serve NOBA and NOBF’s mission to provide legal service to their community.

This year, the Fellowship will focus on providing assistance to domestic violence survivors and working with at risk households to increase family stability. The first Fellowship has been awarded to Laura Malveau who will work as a staff attorney in the Family Law/Domestic Violence Unit at SLLS. Ms. Malveau received her undergraduate degree from Xavier University in New Orleans and her law degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge. An excerpt from Ms. Malveau's application for the Fellowship position sums up her enthusiasm: "NOBA's Fellowship not only bridges a critical justice gap in our community, but also provides an incredible leadership development opportunity for the selected Fellow."   

“The NOBA and NOBF’s Fellowship provides an opportunity for lawyers who wish to devote their professional lives to serving the poor,” said Mark Surprenant, Immediate Past President of NOBA and Adams and Reese Partner in the Firm’s New Orleans office. “It enables bright legal minds to meet the legal needs of those less fortunate. We thought it fitting in this first year that the majority of the Fellow’s work will focus on assisting victims of domestic violence and strengthening family stability in our community.”

SLLS Board Chair and Jones Walker LLC partner, R. Patrick Vance added: “SLLS is honored and thrilled to have been selected as the host site for NOBA’s prestigious new Public Interest Fellowship.  In a time of shrinking resources, it will help us meet the growing demand for civil legal aid for vulnerable families.”

The New Orleans Bar Association (NOBA) was founded in 1924 and is composed of about 3,300 attorneys and members of the judiciary to serve the needs of the New Orleans area legal community. NOBA members benefit from community legal education seminars, the opportunity to participate in numerous substantive law committees, judicial interaction, and as a clearinghouse for legal information. Its Young Lawyers Section provides new attorneys with leadership roles in both bar and community programs. NOBA also provides a Lawyer Referral Services providing about 6,700 referrals each year. In 2014, the NOBA and the New Orleans Bar Foundation created a Public Interest Law Fellowship at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the first of its kind in the country. The first Fellowship began in January 2015.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is Louisiana's largest non-profit provider of free civil legal aid in the state handling about 10,000 cases per year. Offices in Baton Rouge, Covington, Hammond, Harvey, Houma, and New Orleans cover a 22-parish service area, handling a range of issues spanning family law, housing, public benefits, consumer, tax and other areas. SLLS began in 1979 with a grant from the Legal Services Corporation, and in 2003 merged with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation. In recent years, the program expanded to serve the areas in and around Baton Rouge and Houma.