It seems as though lawyers have gotten a "bad rap" as the saying goes. With lawsuits ranging from those against McDonald's for burns resulting from coffee that is "too hot" (as if the person drinking it thought they'd ordered iced coffee) to more outrageous ones such as when a man in New Jersey sued a law school to which he was admitted (but was later expelled from) for having admitted him in the first place. These types of lawsuits have made people skeptical about lawyers and have tarnished lawyers' images, leaving people to wonder what kind of lawyers would take on such cases.

Many people do not realize that lawyers do a lot more than just represent clients and take on sometimes outrageous cases. During the holiday season, and even all-year-round, lawyers are doing more for the public than ever before. Since the holiday season is filled with people helping those in need, I felt that it was time to point out that lawyers, right here in our own back yards, do just that. Moreover, Connecticut legal organizations support all kinds of public and community services. The number of lawyers volunteering their time for these services is tremendous.

The New Haven County Bar Association, for instance, has an annual Hope for The Holidays Collection; among the beneficiaries are homeless shelters for women and children. These drives collects money or items needed to help women and children who need assistance. This year marked the association's 13th such drive. The NHCBA also holds regular "Ask a Lawyer" sessions around New Haven County, at various public libraries. Members of the community may obtain a free legal consultation at these sessions. These are just some of the ways that one local bar association gives back to the community.

Groups of lawyers also do good deeds for causes they believe in. A group of attorneys from the Bridgeport-based law firm of Cohen and Wolf, P.C. participate in a 210 mile bike ride every summer to raise money to help find a cure for cancer. This ride is called the Pan Mass Challenge and is a huge fundraiser for cancer research.

One may also not realize that there are a huge array of pro bono services available to people, year-round, through the Connecticut Bar Association's Connecticut Pro Bono Network. This network strives to provide legal services to those who cannot afford them by joining forces with the many legal service agencies throughout the state that provide free legal assistance to those who need it. In addition, there are many clinics which exist wherein lawyers volunteer their time to assist people who represent themselves in small claims matters, family matters, or in housing matters wherein people are suing on their own behalf to get a security deposit back from a landlord. These are only some of the many ways in which lawyers in Connecticut give back to our community.

Attorney Debra Marino practices at The Law Offices of Debra B. Marino, 657 Orange Center Road, Orange. She can be reached at 203-298-0613.