October 2017

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services. Today, as a bonus Pro Bono Week celebration spotlight, we are highlighting the work of Major General Michael J. Nardotti, Senior Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, and volunteer with The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (TVC). Major Nardotti was named The Veterans Consortium’s Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) in 2017. 

Major General Michael J. Nardotti
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program

TVC’s Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) is Major General Mike Nardotti (US Army, Retired and former The Judge Advocate General, US Army), Senior Partner, Squire Patton Boggs.  Mike represents clients on a broad range of defense, national security and other significant issues at all levels across the Department of Defense and other federal agencies and on matters of special interest to members of Congress. A decorated combat veteran, Mike served for more than 28 years on active duty as a soldier and lawyer. He was The Judge Advocate General – the senior military lawyer in the Army – from 1993 to 1997, advising military and civilian leaders on sensitive, complex and highly-visible legal and policy issues of importance to the Department of Defense, Congress and the media.

Mike was recently recognized by The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program for over 20 years of service to veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors, as a member of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps. Over the past 25 years, Squire Patton Boggs has supported The Veterans Consortium with over 92 attorney engagements in Federal courts, participated in specialized Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims (CAVC) trainings, and assisted TVC in taking dramatic steps forward in our capacity to provide free legal services to veterans and their loved ones.

With Volunteers Inspiring Pro bono (VIPs) like Mike Nardotti and his colleagues at Squire Patton Boggs, TVC’s National Volunteer Corps now stands at more than 2500 attorneys— from both law firms and corporate legal teams—and paralegals and other pro bono professionals from coast to coast.  As the leading national nonprofit focused on providing legal services free of charge to veterans – our nations defenders – TVC consistently delivers on our belief statement that our veterans deserve the care, benefits, and compensation they were promised, and the best legal services free of charge, to meet their challenges.   TVC’s 82% success rate in federal court cases is achieved by the passionate commitment of our National Volunteer Corps members like Mike Nardotti.

Ed Glabus, Executive Director TVC; Major General Mike Nardotti (Photo courtesy of Katharine McKenny)

As The Judge Advocate General, he also served as the leader and senior partner in one of the world’s largest law firms, the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His team of 4,000 full- and part-time military and civilian attorneys and 5,000 full- and part-time military and civilian support staff provided comprehensive legal support and services to a worldwide community of more than one million Active, Guard, and Reserve commanders and soldiers and over one million family members.

Mike Nardotti’s military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In 2006, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame, a high honor accorded those specially selected from the nominees of Ranger units and associations representing each era of Ranger history.

“We are privileged to have professionals like Mike Nardotti on the rolls of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps, and we salute his pro bono service as above and beyond the call of duty “, noted Ed Glabus, Executive Director, The Veterans Consortium.

 


The Veterans Consortium is the leading national 501c(3) charity providing free legal counsel in federal matters to qualified veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors worldwide since 1992. For additional information about The Veterans Consortium and our various outreach initiatives, visit: www.vetsprobono.org.

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  Today, in honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’re sharing the profile of Elizabeth Brancati,  a LiveHelp volunteer with LawHelpNY. Her story below was written by Allana Benton, LawHelpNY’s Serve New York VISTA.

 

Elizabeth Brancati
LawHelpNY

After nine years of being a prosecutor in New York City, Elizabeth and her family decided to leave the “Big Apple” for a small suburban town.  With the move she decided to take a break from the frenetic pace of the practice of law and stay home to care for her children. The transition proved to be more difficult than anticipated—she missed working as a lawyer. Finding an opportunity to stay involved in legal services in a way that still allowed her to tend to her family was difficult. Eager to find a way to stay active and connected in the field of law, she began to research pro bono opportunities. She stumbled upon Joan Archer’s “Volunteer Spotlight” profile, which detailed Joan’s volunteer experiences with LawHelpNY—an opportunity to get back into the field while still being at home with her children? It seemed too good to be true.

Volunteering as a LiveHelp operator came to be a perfect fit for Elizabeth. By making a small time commitment each week, she has been able to impact many lives: “I have been able to help people across the state—in real time—that have all kinds of questions and issues going on in their lives… I chat with a lot of users with questions about Family Law – custody, visitation, divorce, guardianship, adoption, and more. With the training sessions for operators and from reading the materials the LawHelpNY site links to, I have learned a ton about this area of law and can now more quickly help users navigate the court websites and information they might need. On one day, I answered three questions in a row about grandparents seeking guardianship of their grandchildren, and I could quickly point them in the right direction.” Most of the site visitors that she encounters are from New York City; this allows her to feel more connected to the place she formally called home. Additionally, it allows her to familiarize herself with areas of law that differ from what she had practiced.

While volunteering, Elizabeth came across a service listed on LawHelp that she often recommends to visitors in underserved parts of the state. The New York State Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers program connects volunteer attorneys to low-income individuals in need of limited representation and advice. Elizabeth has since become a volunteer with them as well! Elizabeth marvels at how technology makes pro bono volunteering so easy and accessible: I interact with people who are chatting from their phones while they are on the go and who live in places 10 hours away from me. I think it is great how convenient LiveHelp is for the users who are looking for help and also for the operators who assist them.

Although her children keep her busy most days, putting aside some time to volunteer has become an import and rewarding addition to her week. Elizabeth has been a consistent and dedicated volunteer, providing compassionate and professional assistance to New Yorkers navigating legal issues without the benefit of an attorney: “When I think about the values and lessons I want to instill in my children, being kind to others, helping those in need, and being a good neighbor are always on my list. Through volunteering for LawHelpNY, I get to do all of those, and my kids can see me doing it. When I first started searching for volunteer opportunities, I didn’t have much hope that a part-time, remote legal pro bono position existed anywhere. I felt so lucky to have found LawHelpNY and am grateful to have contributed in a small way to our New York community.”

 


LiveHelp is an online chat service designed to help users navigate legal aid websites and locate legal information, resources and referrals. LiveHelp volunteers offer individuals real-time assistance by pointing the way towards resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping them identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp operators are primarily law students and law graduates, working under the supervision of an attorney.

LHNYLawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, is New York’s leading online tool for helping low-income New Yorkers find solutions to their legal programs. Available in both English and Spanish, it provides and promotes access to high-quality online information about free legal services throughout New York, legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, the court system, and related advocacy, government and social service organizations.

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  Today, in honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’re sharing the profile of Nic Rangel,  volunteer with Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY).

 

Nic Rangel
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

Nic Rangel is the Floor Counsel and Ethics Counsel of the New York State Senate Democratic Conference. Nic is a committed volunteer in LASNNY’s Private Attorney Involvement programs, particularly Closing the Gap. The Closing the Gap program provides limited scope legal assistance to otherwise unrepresented litigants in housing and consumer cases through the use of remote technology and interactive interviews.

Tell me how you became interested in pro bono legal work.
I grew up poor, and lived in low-income communities most of my life. I have first-hand experience with some of the ways that unmet legal needs can compound the problems of people already living in poverty.

Now that I am an attorney, I have the ability to help people with some of their legal needs. I think it is my duty to do so and I am glad I can.

What kind of pro bono work are you involved in?
Closing the Gap, “CTG”, much of my pro bono work is through the Closing the Gap program. I provide brief, unbundled legal assistance in consumer debt matters and evictions.

Albany County Bar Association and LASNNY’s transgender name changes and gender marker changes.

The Center for Community Insight, Inc., I co-founded a non-profit organization to provide poverty simulation and poverty-related consulting services.

What Pro Bono Net platforms have helped you during your volunteering?
I first started using LawHelp as the Post-graduate Pro Bono Fellow at Albany Law School. I’ve accessed webinars, trainings and other materials from the Probono.net site. At the Equal Justice Conferences, I’ve attended the 50 NEW Tech Tips panels, and other panels addressing ways to use technology to reach more people in need of legal help. I have recommended Probono.net to recent law graduates to help them find pro bono opportunities in their areas of interest.

Now I primarily use Probono.net for the CTG program. I think my experience with LawHelp Interactive made it easier for me to understand how the guided interview produced effective legal documents.

How long have you been volunteering for?
As children, our parents taught us that it is our duty and responsibility to give back to our community. At least as far back as middle school I volunteered at the local food pantry for holiday food basket programs. By high school, I was volunteering with multiple organizations, including at my church, and at the humane society. I’ve have not had a gap in volunteering since then.

Can you share a highlight from a memorable case?
One of my CTG clients was fighting an eviction. The family of 5, 3 small children, were living in a unit that was otherwise condemned, had broken windows, a broken stove, a broken refrigerator, broken front door that allowed strangers access to a hallway, mold and a leaky roof. The tenants were still paying rent, and fighting to stay in this unit because it was the best they could do with their income. I drafted an answer for this family to try to keep them in this wretched living space, and they were so grateful for my help. I was glad I could provide the help they asked for, but disturbed by their quality of life and how little my help would actually do for them.

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work?
People need the help. Most people cannot afford legal assistance for the vast majority of their legal needs. I have the privilege of being an attorney and I have a responsibility to use my privilege to help others.

Will you continue to do pro bono work? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes & Yes. I recommend pro bono work to students and attorneys for skills development, professional development, networking and relationship building, career exploration and, of course, service to the community. I have gained practical experience drafting legal documents related to consumer debt, eviction defense, and gender marker changes through my pro bono work in the last couple of years. I have also had the opportunity to engage in direct client services, which I do not get at my job.  I have referred several people to the CTG program specifically.


 

Pro Bono Net’s Closing the Gap builds legal assistance capacity in rural communities by facilitating limited scope assistance from pro bono volunteers based in Albany and Rochester. Combining real-time web video chat with client collaboration tools, remote review of documents and generation of pleadings through LawHelp Interactive, Closing the Gap increases the quantity and scope of pro bono service delivery in housing and consumer cases in rural upstate New York.

The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York provides effective, free civil legal services and education to and advocacy for people with low income or other barriers to accessing the legal system.  We secure basic needs, protect and preserve legal rights, provide equal access to justice and seek fairness and dignity for our clients.

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  Today, in honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’re sharing the profile of Nisha Sandhu, a volunteer with Southeastern Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS).

 

Nisha Sandhu
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in pro bono legal work.
I’m a solo practitioner with a family law and criminal appellate practice, both of which are demanding and very rewarding.  I grew up surrounded by volunteerism, which was a priority for my parents. My father actively participated in various community projects. He had and still has a strong sense of civic duty, responsibility and humanity, so it was a no brainer that I would give back to my community in the same way.  For me, I chose pro bono legal work for three reasons: 1) there’s a tremendous need in our community for legal services, 2) I’ve been blessed with curiosity and the ability to solve problems, and 3) I have a duty to use those abilities to better the world around me.  For me, the verse, For everyone to whom much has been given, from him much will be required (Luke 12:48 (NKJV)), is truth. I have my Dad to thank for that.

What kind of pro bono work are you involved in?
I handle mostly divorce and custody pro bono cases.  These are very emotionally wrenching areas for the parties going through them and can be difficult to navigate for those who are unrepresented.

Can you share a highlight from a memorable case?
One of my first cases involved a young lady seeking a divorce from her husband who was incarcerated. He’d been involved in drugs and she’s been through so much and had a young child she was raising despite all she’d been through. During our first conversation, she told me her story and after discussing a few details, she politely asked whether I’d be able to handle her case or whether she would have to “get a real lawyer.” We were on the phone, so I chuckled to myself a little and assured her that I was, in fact, handling her case and, what’s more, I was a real attorney.  Since that time, I’ve helped her with various other issues that have come up for her family and she’s been one of the best clients I’ve had.

 


Southeast Louisiana Legal Services offers civil legal aid to low-income people in Southeast Louisiana. Our mission is to achieve justice for low-income people in Louisiana by enforcing and defending their legal rights through civil legal aid, advocacy and community education. SLLS is Louisiana’s largest provider of free civil legal aid and works with government and public service agencies to secure justice for persons in need.

 

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  To kick off our Pro Bono Week celebration, we would like to share the profiles of two dedicated Oklahoma based volunteers, Jessica Ortiz Sanchez and Brent S. Howard, who volunteer with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc (LAOK). 

 

Jessica I. Ortiz Sanchez
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

As I grew up, I dreamed to be an attorney to help people, to make a difference in their lives. My main motivation has always been to work for access to justice for all.

I began volunteering for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma in 2015 with a Chapter 7 case; which was my first bankruptcy case. The amazing Donna Ellsworth, paralegal for the Lawton office motivated me and guided me thru the process. Thanks to that experience I am now skilled in bankruptcy law and have done one more pro-bono bankruptcy case.

Another memorable case was a name change for a minor child. The parents needed to correct the spelling and last name of their child in the birth certificate. While it seems like an easy task it was a complicated legal issue for the parents who do not understand the process and are not proficient in the English language. Since I am fluent in Spanish and familiar with their culture I was able to relate with the clients and complete the process promptly.  The clients were satisfied and very grateful for my work.

Pro Bono net has many resources available for volunteers. The HotDocs platform for documents templates, LawHelp Interactive, is very convenient and the CLE programs curated on the calendar are outstanding. Moreover, the extraordinary people from  LAOK are always available to mentor when needed. Besides fulfilling the dream to help people, this experience has equipped me with new skills, vast knowledge and understanding of legal topics.

I’m also involved with the Oklahoma’s Lawyers for Hero’s Program. Thru this program I have the opportunity to serve active duty, retirees and veterans in need of legal services. As of today, I have spent several volunteer hours representing those who have dropped their own affairs to serve our Country.

It might be time consuming and challenging at times but it’s satisfying knowing you have made a difference in the client’s life. I will definitely recommend it to my colleagues attorneys.

I am a proud supporter of the Pro Bono Net and LAOK, and will continue to work to remove barriers and bring access to justice for all.


Brent S. Howard
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

Brent S. Howard is a homegrown attorney.   He attended grade school and High School in the rural surrounds of Altus, Oklahoma.  He attained an Agricultural Economics and Accounting Degree from Oklahoma State University and a Law degree from University of Oklahoma.  He then went on to attain Legal Masters (LL.M.) in Taxation from the New York University School of Law.  He has been certified to practice by the Oklahoma Bar Association as well as the United States Tax Court.

Mr. Howard has now come home because he “saw that there was a lack of information and a lack of people knowledgeable in implementing estate and tax planning on a comprehensive basis.”  Since returning home Mr. Howard has become a valued asset to the community he volunteers in all aspects of the community.  He is the Chairman of the Board of Regents for Western Oklahoma State College, committees at the First United Methodist Church, he is the past President of the local Bar Association, a member of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and he is a State Director for the Young Farmers and Ranchers Association.

Mr. Howard uses his knowledge “to help tax-exempt organizations organize their paperwork.  For all Non-Profit Organizations he “donates half of his time when he helps with filing for IRS recognition, organizing documents with the State, or other non-litigation work.”  Some of his most memorable work he has done is with the youth of our community.  He holds much esteem in a quote he heard at a local seminar “Your job or profession should not define who you are, it should only be a platform for you setting that definition.”

Mr. Howard continually helps with annual legal clinics involving the youth in our high schools featuring the Oklahoma Bar Association own guide “You are 18 now”.  He thrives on being a mentor to local youth and giving guidance into future endeavors.  Although he may not be the traditional Pro Bono Attorney Legal Aid sees daily he brings a world of knowledge to other areas of law we do not delve in so that our clients have a growing appreciation for our referral systems.  We are a small rural community that work hand and hand with other local Non-profits and by Mr. Howard helping these smaller non-profits it brings more advantages to our communities.  For example, one such non-profit he has been helping is our local House of Grace and Mercy which would help mothers and children be provided the basic skill sets to be independent or less dependent on others to care for their children.  This would help mothers reintegrate with their children after separations have occurred.  This also extends to the local Exodus House which is a “proven effective program for ex-offenders to get on their feet and prepare to be an asset to the community.  This program has succeeded in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

Without Mr. Howard’s help and initiative to serve this community these smaller non-profits may not be able to move forward.  He should be acknowledged for his long standing help and the guidance he provides for both the youth of our community as well as the overall community.  We would like to thank him for his service and we look forward to our futures together in this community.


Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO) is a non-profit, statewide organization that provides civil legal assistance to low-income people throughout Oklahoma. LASO has 18 offices throughout Oklahoma. LASO is a proud partner with Pro Bono Net providing information and resources to support our volunteers and staff through www.probono.net/ok.

Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.