When members of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Central Ohio (APABA-CO) sought a volunteer opportunity to serve the Asian community, they didn’t have to look far. APABA-CO partnered with the Ohio Justice Bus, a mobile legal office, to volunteer for a legal clinic for Laotian immigrants.

“This partnership was a perfect match,” said Sophia Chang, pro bono director of the Foundation and managing attorney for the Bus. “Many Asian communities don’t know how to access legal services due to cultural differences and language barriers, so having attorney volunteers who understand the culture helps put the clients at ease.”

The Ohio Justice Bus first connected with the Laotian community through the nonprofit Asian American Community Services. The Bus develops partnerships with various community groups across Ohio and travels the state to provide free civil legal services to underserved populations. In 2023, the Bus traveled 20,000 miles and served more than 600 clients.

“The Lao Wills Clinic is one of more than 100 clinics the Bus holds each year,” Chang said. “We are uniquely positioned to serve populations in rural Ohio and other communities that may not otherwise have access to legal services.”

At the Lao Clinic, APABA-CO attorney volunteers help community members prepare wills and advance directives, a valuable service that provides peace of mind for the clients. While many volunteers are APABA-CO members, other attorneys volunteer for different reasons.

“I have a special place in my heart for the Asian community, due primarily to the fact that both of my children are Asian, having been born in China and adopted by me and my husband,” said volunteer attorney Jan Allen Baughman. “Volunteering for the Lao Clinic is one way in which I feel I can pay back, or pay forward, for all I have received.”

The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation funds the Ohio Justice Bus. Visit www.ohiojusticebus.org for a complete list of clinics and to volunteer.