In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the work of the Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics which were initiated in response to the 2017 hurricane season.

Probono.net/ny is the New York state network site of probono.net and strives to mobilize and support the volunteer legal community.  Probono.net/ny includes the NYC Pro Bono Center (hosted with the Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center), and a number of different practice area specific sites, including in family law/domestic violence, community development, housing and foreclosure. The information on our site is made possible by the contributions and collaborations we make with our network of legal service providers in the NY community.

The following highlight was originally published HERE.

Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics for the 2017 hurricane season kicked off on December 11 at the New York City Bar Association with three pro bono attorneys and three clients with support from the City Bar Justice Center. The clinics are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the City Bar, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, and members of the new Task Force on Disaster Relief launched by New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. As City Bar President John Kiernan described in his statement on disaster relief,

“Veterans of providing disaster legal services knew from the outset that given the scale of the hurricanes’ effects, the need for assistance from volunteer lawyers would certainly ripen and crystallize once the immediate humanitarian crisis advanced to the next recovery stage.”

Indeed, FEMA reported receiving over 4.5 million benefits applications from storm victims, and the call for pro bono lawyers became clear when FEMA began issuing denials in mid-November.

At the clinic, one of the clients had been evacuated from Puerto Rico. Living in a shelter, the client was denied FEMA assistance because the client had not applied first for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. The pro bono team called FEMA on a cell phone and engaged in advocacy, filed an online SBA loan application which was immediately rejected, and called FEMA back to pursue his application for relief. Luckily, FEMA’s phone line is open until 10 p.m.

The second client was a mom with two special needs children who is in the midst of a divorce. She is housed and the kids are in school but missing many items from the hurricane. FEMA granted approximately two thousand dollars to repair her home but she needs to appeal, and will return to the clinic next month.

Attorneys were able to help a third client at the clinic – a Superstorm Sandy victim who is still undergoing home repairs. He noticed the FEMA Appeals sign and walked over from the City Bar’s Monday Night Law clinic. This instance of a Sandy homeowner in need of free legal counsel illustrates how years later, New Yorkers are still dealing with home repairs from Sandy and the Build it Back Program.

Please visit the City Bar Justice Center calendar to learn how to volunteer and make the holidays a little brighter for hurricane victims in New York. Pro bono legal help makes an extraordinary difference for families in crises.


In honor of National Volunteer Week 2018, April 15-21, Pro Bono Net would like to extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.  For those at risk of losing their homes, income and even their children, volunteer lawyers are an indispensable resource. Now more than ever it is important for us to support our most vulnerable communities. This wouldn’t be possible without the immense efforts of volunteer lawyers around the country and the organizations that facilitate volunteering.

After two days of retail shopping for bargains – Black Friday and Cyber Monday –#GivingTuesday is a day for giving back.  All over the country, and indeed the world, people are embracing this day as an opportunity to raise money for the good of the wider community. Pro Bono Net is using our #GivingTuesday Celebration to highlight feedback and stories from our users and volunteers.

You can get involved in one or more of the following ways:

Donate to the Pro Bono Net Family – #GivingTuesday is about giving back to our communities. Pro Bono Net is instrumental in creating technologies that promote access to justice for our most vulnerable populations. We are asking that people show their support for our work by making a tax deductible donation to help us fulfill our mission to bridge the justice gap.

Share your dedication on social media – All day on #GivingTuesday Pro Bono Net will be sharing feedback and stories from our users and volunteers. We are inviting our community to join us by sharing their stories and motivations! We are using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #AccesstoJustice for the day.

Volunteer – We encourage any lawyers who can to volunteer with organizations across the country to increase access to justice for those who cannot afford representation. Start searching for opportunities to volunteer right now by using our searchable online Pro Bono Opportunities Guide or check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of online resources we have on probono.net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers.

Across America millions have legal needs that are still going unmet. Being unable to afford an attorney can limit access to justice significantly. Through innovative technology solutions, Pro Bono Net empowers the public with information and self-help tools to improve their lives, equips advocates with the resources to make a stronger impact, and mobilizes volunteers to expand the help available. Along with a broad network of partners, our programs increase access to justice around the nation.

Pro Bono Net needs your help to bring access to justice to millions of Americans. You can give back by participating in our #GivingTuesday Celebration on November 28th. www.probono.net/donate

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#GivingTuesday is a movement, built by people around the world, to celebrate giving of all kinds.  It is celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), Black Friday and Cyber Monday; this year it falls on November 29, 2016. This movement is the result of the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits large and small; businesses and corporations; schools and universities; civic campaigns in cities, states and regions; and families and individuals—to inspire people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities and contribute in countless ways to the causes they believe in. Everyone has something to give.  For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website (www.givingtuesday.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GivingTuesday) or follow @GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media.


For Immediate Release

April 11, 2016
CONTACT: Karin Romans, Pro Bono Net
212-760-2554 x496 | kromans@probono.net

NEW YORK (April 11, 2016) – In honor of National Volunteer Week 2016, which takes place this week, April 10-16, Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.

As the number of people living in poverty has risen, so has the need for legal services that allow Americans to fully participate in society without falling prey to the loss of their housing, income or even their children.  According to the Legal Services Corporation, 63 million Americans qualify for civil legal aid, yet studies have shown that only 20% of the civil legal needs of the poor are being met.  Pro bono attorneys are often the only source of hope for those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

Pro Bono Net is a leader in innovative programs that increase access to justice. We currently have more than 100,000 members who are committed to public service.  National Volunteer Week 2016 provides an opportunity to recognize them for their efforts.

Pro Bono Net’s online platform, at www.probono.net, makes it easy for attorneys to get involved in pro bono work, saving them time and connecting them with opportunities and substantive practice resources such as training videos, practice manuals and sample documents. Volunteer lawyers can connect to opportunities through the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide, which was co-developed with the American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono. Special, issue-specific opportunities are also available through The National Domestic Violence Pro Bono Directory, the Immigration Advocates Network and DisasterLegalAid.org.

Pro Bono Net also developed and maintains LawHelp.org, a public legal information portal with state-based legal referrals, know-your-rights information and a variety of self-help tools, and LawHelp Interactive (LawHelpInteractive.org), which is used by legal aid advocates, pro bono attorneys, and individuals representing themselves to prepare legal forms and documents Pro Bono Net works in partnership with more than 200 legal services organizations around the country.

Sponsored by Points of Light, National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has grown exponentially each subsequent year, with literally thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week.

Volunteer ToolsVisit our Volunteer Tools page to learn more about the range of online resources available at probono.net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers. Legal professionals wishing to get involved can join Pro Bono Net by signing up at www.probono.net. Attorneys can also search for volunteer opportunities atwww.probono.net/volunteer.

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About Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice for the disadvantaged. Through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, Pro Bono Net transforms the way legal help reaches the underserved. Comprehensive programs includingwww.probono.net, www.lawhelp.org and www.lawhelpinteractive.org, enable legal advocates to make a stronger impact, increase volunteer participation, and empower the public with resources and self-help tools to improve their lives.


Read More Press Releases HERE

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. Our final spotlight is of Fiona Finlay-Hunt at Davis Polk. She responded to some questions about her pro bono work.
Fiona Finlay-Hunt, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Fiona Finlay-Hunt is an associate in the New York office of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. She is a member of the Intellectual Property & Technology group and her practice focuses on intellectual property issues arising from corporate transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings and credit transactions. Ms. Finlay-Hunt has participated in pro bono work spanning the arts and entrepreneurship, elder law, criminal appeals and corporate governance.

 

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?
I feel the importance of pro bono work relates directly to why a functioning society needs lawyers at all. It is my obligation as an attorney to understand and interpret the law and to translate this understanding into action for my clients. Without an advocate to guide clients through the often very complicated legal process, the rights and protections provided by law are rendered almost meaningless. It is important for those who are persecuted, discriminated against, impoverished and otherwise in need to know that they have a recourse in the law and a friend and ally in their attorney.

What do you see as some of the most important area of need? What kind of cases does your firm/company prioritize?

I believe that the most important areas of need for pro bono legal services currently are immigration and refugee services and issues relating to gender and sexuality. The law is evolving to better serve marginalized communities, such as new and undocumented immigrants, the LGBTQ community and those that have been displaced by persecution or violence, but without a lawyer these communities may not be able to access the protections afforded by the law, if they are even aware of their rights.

My firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell, is heavily involved in serving these communities. For example, we run clinics and long-term projects relating to transgender name change, uncontested divorces, veteran care issues, elder law, and small business. Additionally, we run a number of collaborative projects to serve asylum seekers with Sanctuary for Families and Human Rights First, as well as an asylum workshop that we conduct with Columbia Law School’s Center for Public Interest Law. Davis Polk’s reach in terms of pro bono offerings is truly extraordinary.

So it is obvious that the need is overwhelming, but so is a busy work day: how do you find the time?

I treat my pro bono clients’ needs the same as those of any of the firm’s clients. In many cases, urgent matters that arise in the context of pro bono work may have a disproportionate impact on the client because they relate to an acute personal issue. I try to balance my urgent work so that I can serve my pro bono clients with the same responsiveness, accuracy and care as any of the firm’s clients. The firm encourages as much pro bono work as possible, so my pro bono work and my billable work are one and the same to me.

How do you find cases or issues that interest you? How do individuals at your firm/company find cases?

In certain cases I have been sought out by a senior associate who has an interesting project for a long-standing pro bono client, or someone has referred a matter to me because of my practice area. On the other hand, the firm’s resources and support for pro bono are such that one may easily sign up to participate in any of the workshops and clinics that the firm hosts or sends attorneys to attend. For instance, I have participated multiple times in the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts clinic that the firm hosts every summer.

Another means by which I have become involved in pro bono work is by working closely with a partner with a robust pro bono practice. As a member of Davis Polk’s Intellectual Property and Technology Group, I have been fortunate to become involved with Pro Bono Net through Frank Azzopardi. These client relationships are one of the best ways for junior associates to become essential team members on interesting and impactful pro bono matters, and to get to know the wonderful people who have dedicated their lives to giving underserved communities vital access to justice.

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Pro bono work is a core responsibility of Davis Polk. We are committed to serving the public good and providing legal services to those who cannot otherwise obtain legal representation. Our lawyers work on pro bono matters throughout their careers at the firm, and we champion pro bono work through partner mentoring, training opportunities and the commitment of resources. We consider pro bono work to be of equal stature to billable matters, and our lawyers offer the same caliber of service to our pro bono clients as we do to our paying clients.


 

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!

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.

Fifty Hour Pro Bono Requirement Prods Former Marine to Help Bronx Health Organization

Author: Bill Lienhard, Executive Director, Volunteers of Legal Service NY

Chris Mendez, Former Marine and Pro Bono Volunteer
Chris Mendez, Former Marine and Pro Bono Volunteer

 

 

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.

READ MORE

 

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.

VOLS logo

 

 

 


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!

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. To kick off the week, we are starting with Alicia A. Handy of Latham & Watkins in Houston, TX.

 

Alicia A. Handy is an Associate at the Houston Office of Latham & Watkins LLP. She is a member of the Environmental Transactions Practice and her practice focuses primarily on environmental, land and regulatory matters within the oil and gas industry. Ms. Handy has maintained an active pro bono practice that has included landlord-tenant and immigration matters, and a criminal appeal before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?

I think it is important to do pro bono work because people should not be denied access to an attorney simply because they lack financial resources. The U.S. legal system is complicated enough for those of us who have attended law school, and the complexities often make it insurmountable for those who are trying to go it alone.

In addition to the ethical aspects of pro bono engagement, my personal experiences have shaped my views and understanding of the role of race and poverty on a person’s every day experience. I have spent countless hours listening and talking to family members about what it means to be black (or any minority) and/or poor in the U.S. I also went to school in one of the most segregated school districts in New York, which also had a high rate of student poverty. I have lost family, friends, classmates to drugs, prison, HIV/AIDS, and violence, some of whom were honor students, from “good” families, and seemed to have everything going for them. My experiences have shaped my perspective and have motivated me since the start of my legal career to do pro bono work.

What do you see as some of the most important area of need? What kind of cases does your firm/company prioritize?

The justice gap is wide and it’s hard to say where the need is greatest.

My firm works on matters across the public interest spectrum. In Houston, where I am based, we handle a number of immigration, estate planning, transactional, and veterans matters. We are also starting to handle more clemency and criminal justice matters.

So it is obvious that the need is overwhelming, but so is a busy work day: how do you find the time?

There’s no easy answer to this one. For me, pro bono engagement is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be a lawyer – it is important to me, it is important to my practice and it is important to this profession. If it is important enough to you, you find the time.


Latham & Watkins has a long-standing commitment to providing pro bono legal services, financial support and volunteer time to those most in need within our communities.Latham’s dedication to pro bono work is a source of pride and reflects a fundamental part of the firm’s culture. Each year, our lawyers and professional staff take on matters in nearly every area of public interest law, including veterans’ rights, asylum and immigration, domestic violence, Holocaust reparations, anti-human trafficking, prisoners’ rights, microfinance and social entrepreneurialism, children and civil rights.

View on Site

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!