VLJ is honored to announce Jack Feinstein as its July Volunteer of the Month. Not only has Jack been volunteering with VLJ for 17 years, but he has also encouraged numerous law students to participate in pro bono work as a former Clinical Professor and ultimately Director of the Rutgers Civil Justice Clinic.
After graduating from Rutgers Law School, Jack began his career at Somerset Sussex Legal Services handling various types of civil legal matters for low-income people. He then worked on housing matters at Essex Newark Legal Services before returning to Rutgers to join what was then known as the Urban Legal Clinic (now the Civil Justice Clinic). Jack managed the clinic for about 17 years of the almost 30 years he was there, until he left at the end of 2017 to work part-time in private practice.
Jack began taking clinic students to volunteer with VLJ beginning in 2002. They first attended VLJ’s Divorce Clinic, and by 2011, Jack and his students began regularly attending our Consumer Law Clinic. Jack likes to give his students an opportunity to see how many people are being underserved by the legal system. “There are so many people who need free legal services but almost nobody to provide them,” said Jack. “Volunteering at the clinics broadens the students’ horizons, and they feel good providing a service.”
Jack’s students observed firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate a complex legal system. Clients at the Consumer Law Clinic frequently receive complaints or interrogatories that they are unsure how to answer, for example, or struggle with wage garnishments even when the debt may not have been valid in the first place. Jack said that he appreciates how issues like these make the students more aware of the impacts of poverty.
In his 17 years working with VLJ, Jack has spent over 500 hours assisting nearly 100 clients. Even after leaving Rutgers, Jack has continued to volunteer with VLJ, recently taking on several cases for full representation. In one case, Jack represented a victim of sex trafficking who had been charged with loitering to engage in prostitution. The client was terrified that her outstanding bench warrant would result in jail time or the removal of her one-year-old child, but she was not able to afford the $250 bail. Jack first convinced the court to vacate the arrest warrant. As a result, the client was able to find a new job with health benefits and a retirement plan. Jack then negotiated with the municipal prosecutor to drop all charges against her and expunge the arrest.
Jack believes that pro bono work should be required for all lawyers. Not only does it give attorneys an opportunity to see the real world and the challenges indigent people face, but it can also teach them new skills in unfamiliar areas of law. Plus, clients are so used to being told they have to pay thousands of dollars for legal help that when it’s provided free of charge, they are incredibly appreciative, he said.
VLJ is thrilled to recognize Jack as its July Volunteer of the Month for his many years of support in serving low-income clients and encouraging his students to do the same.