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 Wantee Ramkaran, a LiveHelp Volunteer for LawHelpNY.
LawHelpNY.org, is a website designed to help low-income New Yorkers solve their legal problems. Volunteers staff LiveHelp, an online, real-time chat service that directs users towards relevant self-help materials, legal services organizations and court information.
Wantee is a first-year law student at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, and started working with LawHelpNY in October 2017. Although she completed her New York State pro bono requirements months ago, Wantee continues to volunteer as a LiveHelp Operator for LawHelpNY because in her words, “it is truly a rewarding experience.” Through LiveHelp, Wantee has continuously provided excellent support for people in crisis. She has connected people in need with helpful legal information and referrals to legal service providers. In addition to providing great information, Wantee has shined in maintaining a compassionate and helpful tone in her chats.
Hear more about Wantee’s experience as a LiveHelp Operator:
Why did you decide to do pro bono volunteer work with LiveHelp?
When I learned about LawHelpNY and its’ mission, it was something I definitely wanted to become a part of. I didn’t know there was a resource out there like LawHelpNY. There is so much information available on the website. I was surprised that I could play such an important role as a law student. Knowledge is power and I am an advocate for making New Yorkers better aware of their basic rights and the resources that are available to them.
Why were you interested in volunteering with LiveHelp?
At first, I wanted to make a difference. However, I was actually surprised about the vast amount of New York law I’ve learned about since I started my service with LawHelpNY.
Can you share a highlight from a memorable case?
After providing legal information and resources to someone, the person replied “You’re wonderful! …This website is very helpful!” The individual was so ecstatic and it was the greatest feeling knowing that I helped bring so much happiness to a person. It was a reminder of how rewarding pro bono work can be.
Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?
Being a law student or a lawyer is very special. It is more than a “title.” When you are a law student or lawyer, you are exposed to unique positions that can positively impact the lives of others. I think law students and lawyers should take advantage of these opportunities that are available.
I wanted to attend law school and become an attorney for as long as I can remember. I am a first-generation college graduate and the first in my family to attend law school. I want to give back to the same low-income community that I came from as well. I worked really hard to get where I am in life, but there are a lot of people who has helped me get where I am today – family, teachers and professors, past supervisors and mentors. I believe giving back to my community serves as a “thank you” to everyone that has helped get to where I am today. It is the least I can do.
How has your pro bono service impacted you?
My pro bono service has helped me find my passion of working in public interest. When I started law school, I was unsure about what area of law I wanted to practice in. However, I enjoy serving my community and I would not mind going to work a single day in my life if I am able to help those in need of assistance.
What did you find most challenging?
The most challenging part is speaking with individuals who are facing a difficult time and now knowing if their problems are resolved. When you become involved with helping others, you just wish the best for everyone and hope that no one will go through difficulties in life. It serves as a constant reminder to be nice and respectful to everyone because you never truly understand what type of difficulties someone is facing.
So it is obvious that the need is overwhelming, but so is a busy work day: how do you find the time?
Law school is very stressful and sometimes it is difficult to find time to volunteer. However, I look forward to stopping for three hours to complete my shift because I am able to think about something other than school. It is a win-win: I am able to relax while helping others.
LiveHelp is a bilingual online simultaneous live chat service that offers legal information and referrals to legal services providers for visitors to LawHelpNY, AyudaLegalNY, NYCourts.gov/CourtHelp’s Families and Children and Foreclosure sections, LawHelpNY’s micro sites and the Legal Information for Families Today website. LiveHelp is available Monday-Friday 9 am – 9 pm, and is available on mobile devices. LiveHelp is staffed by law student, law graduate, attorney volunteers, under the supervision of a barred attorney in New York State. Additionally a staff member from Legal Information for Families today staffs LiveHelp Monday-Friday 10-1pm offering live chat assistance to visitors facing family court issues.