A New Year’s Resolution: You were there for us. For this I am grateful.
As we start a new year, I encourage you to include taking a pro bono case on your list of resolutions for 2009. We are all struggling in these uncertain economic times, but those even less fortunate than us are struggling on a level that most of us are unable to imagine.
I specificially encourage you to consider taking a family law case from Philadelphia VIP, an agency that matches low income Philadelphians with much needed volunteer attorneys who provide civil legal representation to those who would otherwise go unrepresented. I received the following letter from a couple of hard working VIP paralegals and was compelled to share it with you:
Over the last year, Philadelphia VIP has received an increased number of requests for pro bono representation with the greatest number of cases in the area of family law.
Every time we read through the file of a new family law case, we are moved by the client’s compelling story. After all, a client’s divorce, custody, support, adoption or guardianship matter affects the most personal aspect of his or her life. Taking such a case on a pro bono basis will certainly make a positive difference in any volunteer attorney’s life as well.
According to Matthew Olesh, a litigation associate at Dechert LLP and a first-year volunteer with VIP who has already helped 4 clients with family law matters, “we always work as hard as we can for our clients, and it is especially rewarding to help someone who truly needs and deserves legal assistance.” When opposing counsel challenged a VIP client’s attempts to visit her child who was living almost two hours outside of Philadelphia in a remote area of the state that was inaccessible by public transportation, Olesh helped the client obtain physical custody of her child. Olesh noted, “from the first time I met my client, I could tell that she had nothing but the purest intentions in wanting to be reunited with her child. Not only was she genuinely upset at being cut off from all contact, but she was legitimately concerned for the child’s well-being.” Through Olesh’s dedication to the case, the client’s year long struggle to see her child was rejuvenated and ultimately validated. At the conclusion of the case, Olesh’s client noted, “I consider myself very fortunate and appreciate everything that VIP and my attorney did for my family and me. You were there for us. For this I am grateful.”
Unfortunately, even though there are many dedicated attorneys who represent family law clients diligently and consistently, there are not enough volunteers to meet the demand of VIP’s case load – in 2008, VIP was forced to turn away over 50% of Philadelphians who sought representation on family law matters.
Many attorneys have told us that they feel uncomfortable accepting family law cases through VIP because they have no prior experience in family law. If you are not a family law practitioner, there are several reasons why you are still an ideal fit to represent a pro bono client in the area of family law, including:
VIP provides a group of experienced family law practitioners who mentor volunteer attorneys new to family law representation;
VIP provides an online library of training materials, which volunteers can access from their own desks;
volunteers gain invaluable client counseling, negotiation and trial advocacy skills;
volunteers can help counsel clients to make good legal decisions and single-handedly afford give clients a much needed voice in an otherwise intimidating legal process; and
volunteers will find the benefits of their representation reciprocal.
VIP is offering substantive preparation for family law cases to all interested volunteer attorneys through a CLE on custody scheduled for February 13th and a CLE on divorce scheduled for April 3rd. The CLE credits are free in exchange for pro bono services.
To become a Philadelphia VIP volunteer or to learn more about upcoming trainings, visit the Philadelphia VIP website or call 215-523-9550. We hope to hear from you soon!
Philadelphia VIP Paralegals
Please consider using your legal prowess to help a fellow Philadelphian deal with a family law matter this year. You will be amazed at your ability to impact a local family.