President's Message - FEBRUARY
WLALA President 2014-2015
I have been so impressed in the last few months by the amount and type of pro bono work that is being performed by my contacts and colleagues in Los Angeles. What is striking to me is that many times those people who are the busiest in their professional and personal lives are also the most committed to pro bono work.
For example, our own Executive Committee Member, Stacy Horth-Neubert, not only practices law at a major law firm and serves WLALA, but she also runs the pro bono program at her firm. Similarly, former WLALA President, Tanya Forsheit, has her busy privacy practice and, along with her colleagues at Baker Hostetler, she also volunteers her time to WLALA by providing legal advice on privacy issues facing the organization. And, recently, Co-Chair of WLALA’s Amicus Committee, Lisa Jaskol, drafted – in record time – an amicus brief on behalf of WLALA. Lisa also has her day job as Directing Attorney of Public Counsel's Appellate Law Program. I see the same commitment of time and energy at my own firm, with many attorneys investing hundreds of hours in pro bono matters each year, often times through referrals from local public interest law organizations.
My pro bono contributions are more modest. I endeavor to meet our firm expectation of 50 hours of pro bono work each year, usually through supervising junior attorneys in asylum, immigration and unlawful detainer actions. I particularly enjoy mentoring our associates, and pro bono work is often an excellent vehicle for more junior attorneys to get stand-up experience while also providing high quality legal work for no fee. The additional bonus, of course, is to have a real impact in the lives of people who face serious challenges in their lives.
Even if you don’t work at a firm that can spoon feed you pro bono assignments, there are opportunities of all sizes and levels of commitment if you look. One of those is volunteering at the Power Lunch Program, which is co-sponsored by WLALA and the courts in Los Angeles. The Power Lunch Program provides a lunch program for high school students (and sometimes police cadets) at various courthouses throughout the year, during which the students learn about the court system and its participants. The purpose is to inspire the students to seek professions in the law and to see the judicial system from a different perspective than what they may hear about or see on television. The program cannot be successful without attorney and judicial volunteers. This month we are holding a program at the Pasadena Courthouse, and the participating students will be from Pasadena High School. Please click here to register to attend and volunteer.
WLALA also is a co-founder and longtime supporter of the Harriet Buhai Center For Family Law, which provides free family law assistance and legal education to the poor. Numerous pro bono opportunities are available at the Center. For more information about volunteer options and training, go to http://www.hbcfl.org/get-involved/volunteer/.
Finally, WLALA is a long-time partner of Sojourn Services For Battered Women and Their Children in Santa Monica. WLALA members work with clients at the legal clinic located at Sojourn. Volunteers first receive training in family law issues, including restraining orders, divorce and separation, child custody, and other issues relating to family law. The drop-in clinic is in operation every Monday from 6 to 7. Training is available on the first Monday of each month. Please contact co-chairs Jill Piano or Lisa Miller at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a volunteer.
We hope these opportunities inspire you to devote just a little more time to pro bono work this year.