November 2017 Volunteer of the Month: Steve Weingarten

Despite having served their country, a substantial number of veterans discover upon returning home that there is a lack of cost-effective legal services available to them.  Steve Weingarten wants to make sure that those who have sacrificed so much for our nation receive the legal assistance that they so desperately need.

Stephen Weingarten.jpg

Steve 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.

Steve received a B.A. from City College of New York and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.  He has worked at PNA for more than 33 years.  Prior to joining PNA, Steve was Associate General Counsel at MCI Communications Corporation, which had acquired his prior employer, WUI, Inc.

Earlier this year, in partnership with PNA and BASF Corporation, VLJ launched the Veterans Legal Wellness Clinic at the VA hospital in East Orange.  At the clinic, teams of attorneys from the corporations and their partnering law firms conduct holistic legal questionnaire interviews with veterans to try to determine the root causes of their legal issues.  The attorneys then prioritize the veterans’ legal issues, provide advice or limited service, and make meaningful referrals.  PNA support staff members are also key to the success of the program and assist the veterans with referrals after the attorney appointments are completed.

Steve oversees management of the clinic on behalf of PNA.  He coordinates the clinic’s logistics, organizes teams of attorneys and staff from PNA and partnering law firms, and serves as an advisor to clients as needed.  “Working with VLJ and our talented partner law firms has enabled us to learn more about and consider familiar and unfamiliar legal issues from different perspectives, and develop additional alternative solutions to legal concerns and problems,” says Steve.  The result is that the attorneys provide better legal advice and recommendations to the clients while simultaneously expanding their own legal skills. 

“It has been wonderful working with Steve,” says Cathy Keenan, VLJ’s Executive Director.  “His commitment to serving our nation’s veterans is unparalleled.  Not only does Steve take care of so many of the details to ensure that the program runs smoothly, he was a real innovator in his commitment to holding this clinic at the VA hospital in a location that would be the most convenient to the veterans served.”

What Steve likes most about volunteering at the clinic is the opportunity to express gratitude to veterans for their service to our country by giving back in the way of much-needed legal guidance and support.  Steve believes that the positive feedback veterans share with VLJ – how the lawyers assisted them in regaining their driving privileges so they could return to work, ensured that they would receive a fair hearing in court, or helped them understand their options for dealing with legal issues – contributes to making the program even more meaningful to both lawyers and staff.

Steve believes that pro bono legal work is important both to enable the delivery of free legal services to people who cannot afford it, and also to give volunteers an opportunity to provide those services in an important and meaningful way.  “In essence,” says Steve, “attorneys who provide pro bono legal services can do well for themselves by doing good for others.”

Steve fully subscribes to something that Damien Atkins, PNA’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, said when he first committed PNA to support VLJ and the veterans clinic: that “giving back is a responsibility, not a choice, and that sharing resources and expertise to help veterans is the least we can do to show our gratitude for their service.”

“The steps we’re taking in providing pro bono legal services are only the beginning of what all of us need to do in order to show our gratitude for our veterans’ service and sacrifices,” says Steve, “and, as importantly, because it is the right thing to do.”