Declaring bankruptcy is a difficult decision for anyone to make, and successfully navigating the complex bankruptcy process is also difficult, if not impossible, to do without the assistance of legal counsel. That is where volunteers like bankruptcy attorney Paul Evangelista step in to help provide the much-needed pro bono bankruptcy assistance to low-income debtors. Doing his part to ensure that justice is accessible to everyone, Paul has been volunteering with VLJ’s Bankruptcy Program for over a year now, representing indigent debtors in filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions.
The school-to-prison pipeline – a disturbing national trend in which children, especially those who are minorities or have disabilities, are pushed out of the classroom and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems – has made national headlines in recent years, with much discussion on how to address this problem. For attorney Becky Rosenfeld, it meant a career change – from representing defendants in criminal matters to going back to the start: school.
Paralegals are an integral part of the practice of law. The American Bar Association recognizes that paralegals can enhance lawyers’ abilities to offer paid and pro bono services. That is also true of the role of paralegals as volunteers with VLJ, including longtime Consumer Law Clinic volunteer Maryann McGrath. Maryann is a paralegal at AT&T, currently focusing on domestic and international corporate governance. Maryann has volunteered with the Consumer Law Clinic every month for the past 5 years.
For a new attorney, several reasons might serve as deterrents to taking on a pro bono case: it might be a lot of work; it’s likely an area of law the attorney knows little about; or maybe it’s just difficult to know where to begin. But Kelly Lloyd Lankford has experienced firsthand the benefits of pro bono work, and wants to reassure other young attorneys that it can be a positive experience.
Kelly is a Senior Managing Associate at Dentons. Kelly has volunteered with VLJ for the past several years and recently accepted a position as co-chair of VLJ’s Generation Now.
The dissolution of marriage is a profoundly stressful, emotional and life changing experience for all parties involved. Maritza Rodriguez has devoted her entire career to helping clients from different backgrounds navigate the complicated legal process while offering them the emotional guidance and support along the way.
American veterans face significant struggles after serving our country and returning home. Mary Kenny thinks that for many veterans these struggles cannot be overcome without the assistance of the courts, organizations like VLJ, and volunteers like her team at BASF Corporation.
Mary is Senior Counsel in the legal department of BASF, the North American affiliate of BASF SE, the world’s largest chemical company. She supports one of the business units at BASF, doing transactional work for her group. In addition to her role as a business attorney, she also acts as BASF’s pro bono coordinator.
It would be easy to make the assumption that low-income clients with very few assets would have little need for a will. On the contrary, as Laura Kelly says, “That just makes the assets they do have even more important to them.”
Laura is a Partner at McCarter & English. She has concentrated her practice in trusts and estates matters since 1994, and has volunteered with VLJ for the past several years both by taking pro bono estate cases for full representation and by speaking at VLJ’s clinics to train volunteer attorneys.
Steve Weingarten is Chief Counsel-Corporate Affairs and Corporate Assistant Secretary of Newark, New Jersey-based Panasonic Corporation of North America (PNA), a leading technology partner and integrator to businesses, government agencies, and consumers across the region. Steve also advises both PNA’s community outreach and employee volunteer programs, and the Panasonic Foundation, which provides support to school systems in the greater Newark area and throughout the United States.
Earlier this year, in partnership with PNA and BASF Corporation, VLJ launched the Veterans Legal Wellness Clinic at the VA hospital in East Orange.
VLJ contributed to a recent report on the challenges of the recovery process after Superstorm Sandy. The report, “The Long Road Home,” analyzed the results of a survey taken by over 500 Sandy survivors found that 22% of respondents were still out of their homes at the time of the survey; that 77% of respondents either did not have enough money to finish rebuilding their homes; and that more than 70% of respondents had developed new physical or mental health problems or a worsening of pre-existing health conditions since Sandy.
For a parent, the process of securing appropriate services for a child in school can often be overwhelming, intimidating, and exhausting. After experiencing this firsthand, Karen Edler has become a powerful advocate for parents who desperately need help understanding and navigating their children’s education rights.
Karen is of counsel at Price Meese Shulman & D’Arminio, P.C. She has nearly twenty years of education law experience, and has been a volunteer with VLJ’s Children’s Representation Program (CRP), from taking pro bono cases to serving as a mentor for attorneys new to the area of law, since just after its establishment