Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section. As our second profile, we are spotlighting a piece on Christopher Mendez, a former volunteer at Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) NY, written by Bill Lienhard, its Executive Director.
Author: Bill Lienhard, Executive Director, Volunteers of Legal Service NY
Bill Lienhard, Executive Director of Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS), shares this very special story about Christopher Mendez, a Senior Compliance Officer for Invesco Ltd, and a former Marine. This piece speaks to Chris’ journey through NY’s 50 hour pro bono requirement, his passions and time as a volunteer in VOLS Microenterprise Project, and the important work of his client, Community Health Worker Connections.
With nearly 1,000 volunteer lawyers serving 3,000 clients each year, it’s not possible for me to get to know every client and volunteer and to take the time to understand the impact of pro bono legal assistance in particular cases. Every so often, however, my feet get itchy, and I have to get out of the office, meet the people involved, and see what my organization, Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) is actually doing.
I was in this mood when, in response to a mass email to VOLS’ Microenterprise Project participants, I received this concise and enthusiastic email from Chris Mendez, a volunteer in the project:
“I believe you’ve been briefed on the pro bono work that I’m doing with Community Health Workers through SoBRO [South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation] to satisfy NY’s pro bono requirement for admission. The project is moving along nicely. I thought perhaps we can grab lunch or coffee in the coming weeks so that I may formally introduce myself and give you an update on the work that I’ve done and what I’ll be doing with them going forward.”
Here was my opportunity to get out there and see VOLS in action! Although VOLS focuses on recruiting lawyers from large law firms, and not on individual volunteers, I was curious to see, first hand, the impact of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s requirement that people applying to become lawyers in New York State first complete 50 hours of pro bono service. Who was Chris? What was the impact of the 50 hour rule? Why was Chris volunteering? What was he doing? Who was he volunteering for and what impact was it having? I decided to go and find out the story. I am very glad that I did.
Chris and I met for lunch near Bryant Park, and then again at his office at Invesco, where he works as a Senior Compliance Officer. Chris grew up in Mt. Holly, NJ, as the eldest of five children. His father emigrated here from Guatemala in 1981 and his mother is from Florida.
Volunteers of Legal Service is a New York based organization. It leverages the good will, resources, and talents of New York City’s leading law firms to provide pro bono legal assistance to the city’s neediest residents. Through their projects, their attorneys provide pro bono assistance that helps reunite families, stave off evictions, resolve immigration issues, win vital government benefits, and start small businesses.
Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!
Interested in volunteering? Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!