June 2018 Volunteer of the Month: Paul Evangelista

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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.  Paul says the following about pro bono work: “We went into this profession because we realized how important justice is, to individuals and to businesses, big and small.  Pro bono work ensures that justice is accessible to everyone.  People aren’t shut out.”  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.

Initially studying engineering during his undergraduate years at Lehigh University, Paul ended up taking pre-law classes, graduating with a degree in Government and Urban Studies and Law.  He later attended Quinnipiac University School of Law, becoming the first in his family to pursue law.  For the past thirteen years, Paul has been running a successful solo practice in Hoboken, focusing primarily on bankruptcy, with the lion’s share of the work being consumer bankruptcy.  Before hanging his own shingle, Paul clerked for the Honorable Kevin Callahan in Hudson County and worked in several larger firms practicing general civil litigation and later, bankruptcy, before he was “itching to do more with representing individuals and helping individuals.”

Paul first heard about VLJ though the Honorable Morris Stern Pro Bono Bankruptcy Project at Rutgers Law School in Newark.  Colleagues, including other attorneys and judges, highly endorsed the program and that was all he needed to hear.  In taking on pro bono bankruptcy work, he admits, “Pro bono work is tough.  A lot of times you’re called to handle a case that is outside of your expertise, so it’s good to have an opportunity to help others that really need it and lend them your expertise.”

“Paul has been a great asset to VLJ’s Bankruptcy Program,” says Nari Wang, the VLJ staff attorney who manages the Bankruptcy Program.  “Not only is he eager to take on new pro bono cases, but it’s also clear that he truly cares about ensuring that low-income debtors are treated fairly in the bankruptcy process and can obtain equal access to justice.”

Paul fondly recollects one of his earlier cases with VLJ, a client who was “someone that was truly giving every effort to manage her debt situation.  She was extremely hard working but at a low-paying job and suffering from tremendous stress and anxiety about her situation.”  After successfully filing for bankruptcy and obtaining a full discharge of the client’s debts, the client was so appreciative of Paul’s help, which only reaffirmed his conviction that pro bono work is not only important, but necessary and gratifying: “That’s what you want to hear; that you changed someone’s life for the better.”