August 2018 Volunteer of the Month: Kathleen DeCelie

Kathleen Decelie Professional Photo.jpg

For many professionals, the greatest obstacle to volunteering is finding the time. But Prudential’s Kathleen DeCelie says this doesn’t have to be the case. She points to her experience, volunteering through VLJ, which has provided a variety of pro bono opportunities suitable to her schedule as a full-time attorney, wife and mother of two.

“You choose how long and how much you want to do.  You can volunteer for four to five hours, no more.  And when you do, I promise that you will win,” says Kathleen. Nonetheless, she feels fortunate to work at a company where there is not only a commitment to pro bono but also an encouragement to do so. 

At Prudential, Kathleen serves as Vice President, Corporate Counsel supporting the retirement business. She provides advice and offers creative solutions to her clients with respect to legal and regulatory issues related to products offered to qualified retirement plans, and in doing so supports product development and management activities. 

She was also recently appointed Co-Chair of the Prudential Law, Compliance, Business Ethics Pro Bono Law Committee. This Committee was established in 2010, and offers employees opportunities to help the underserved in our community, to receive work credit and recognition for their time, and to advance their professional skills.

Kathleen attended College of Mount Saint Vincent for her undergraduate degree and received her Juris Doctorate from New York Law School. She spent more than 16 years working at financial services firms in New York before joining Prudential in June 2014.

Kathleen is a regular volunteer with a number of VLJ clinics:  Divorce (Pre- and Post-Filing), Tenancy and Consumer Law. “Navigating the legal system can be overwhelming for anyone,” said Kathleen. “Volunteering with VLJ connects you to the community, and the people in it. Life is all about connections and if you don’t look outside your little world you will miss so many opportunities and experiences that can be life changing.  VLJ gives me the opportunity to use my training and experience to help someone who has nowhere else to turn to, to give someone hope, and to help them, hopefully, walk away thinking that not all lawyers, or the legal system, are bad.  Far too many individuals have a negative perception about the justice system, whether wrong or right, and through VLJ, perhaps we can change that perception, and stop a cycle.”

While volunteering with VLJ, Kathleen has had numerous encounters that have highlighted the great need for legal services among those without the financial capacity to attain them. In one instance, a woman suffering with severe health issues came to the Tenancy Clinic accompanied by two young daughters. The client had fallen behind on rent and was now facing eviction. Due to the woman’s poor health, her daughters had to assist in providing key facts, answering questions and keeping their mom awake during the interview. Fortunately, Kathleen and her partner resolved the matter and worked out a payment schedule. “She has 2 children. I have 2 children, and hope that if the situation were reversed someone would help me. Kindness goes a long way,” said Kathleen. In her opinion, pro bono work provides a benefit not just to the legal community but society at large.

In addition to volunteering with VLJ and Pro Bono Institute’s “Pro Bono in a Box,” Kathleen is a co-coach of her daughter’s K-8th grade track team, trading in weekends for track meets. One parent recognized Kathleen’s efforts in a card, “Thanks for being so good to our kids,” it read. For Kathleen, notes like these are a reminder to always make time for the important things in life.