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.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting the work of Jordan Chisolm, who volunteers through the Closing the Gap program at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.

 

Jordan Chisolm, Esq.

Jordan Chisolm, Esq., Pro Bono Advocate
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

Jordan Chisolm, originally from Long Island, New York, received a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 2015, where he received the Dean John Sexton Prize for outstanding service to the Law School community. Mr. Chisolm was a Development Editor on the N.Y.U. Annual Survey of American Law, and served as President of the NYU Law Student Bar Association in his final year. Mr. Chisolm received a B.B.A. in Finance, cum laude, from George Washington University in 2010.

Prior to joining Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, LLP located in Albany, NY. Mr. Chisolm worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Alexander Williams Jr. in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and as a legal intern for the Division of Enforcement and Neighborhood Services with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Additionally, Mr. Chisolm served as Treasurer for the Black Allied Law Students Association. Prior to law school, Mr. Chisolm was an NYC Urban Fellow in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, and worked for Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Pro Bono Work

Mr. Chisolm is a pro bono advocate for the Closing the Gap program at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. Closing the Gap is a new program that focuses on connecting pro bono attorneys to rural clients facing housing and consumer matters. Jordan joined the Closing the Gap program in June 2016 eager to aid those clients who are geographically disadvantaged from obtaining legal services.

Closing the Gap is a partnership between Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Volunteer Legal Services Project, and Pro Bono Net. Through the use of the Closing the Gap website and Law Help Interactive software developed by Pro Bono Net, the pro bono attorney is able to interview the rural client in a virtual interview and draft pro se pleadings that will allow the client to be suited with affirmative defenses in court.

One particular case that Mr. Chisolm was triumphant in involved a client who was at risk of losing housing. The client was facing a retaliatory eviction due to the conditions of the home. Jordan interviewed the client through the Closing the Gap website and immediately noticed numerous discrepancies with the process in which the opposing party brought suit against the LASNNY client. Jordan prepared the client with justifiable procedural defenses and because of this, the client’s eviction was dismissed and both parties were able to come to a mutual agreement. As quoted by the client, “Jordan was so good, the ‘judge’ in my little town had to look up all of the cases he cited in my answer and counterclaim. He hit it out of the ball park! Thanks so much.”  We are pleased to say that the client is still happily residing in her home free from any further housing or habitability issues.

Closing the Gap is very fortunate to have Mr. Chisolm as a pro bono advocate, it is very evident his passion for helping others. Mr. Chisolm gives each case 100% effort and is always willing to go beyond program expectations in order to serve the client.

 


Closing the Gap logoClosing 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.

LASNNYThe 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.