Volunteers Of The Year Announced By Pro Bono Partnership

Monday, April 5, 2010 - 01:00

In recognition of their tremendous commitment and support for the area's nonprofit community, the Pro Bono Partnership has named its Volunteers of the Year for 2009: UnitedHealth Group's Legal Department; Hogan & Hartson LLP; Stacey Babson-Smith, Vice President, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, Terex Corporation, Westport, CT; Amy L. Festante, an associate with Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, Parsippany, NJ;and, Steve Moll, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Employment and Labor, Thomson Reuters, Stamford, CT. The Pro Bono Partnership is the leading provider of free business legal services, educational workshops and other legal resources to nonprofit organizations in Connecticut; New Jersey;and Westchester, Orange, Putnam and Rockland Counties, New York.

"These volunteers represent the best of what the Pro Bono Partnership stands for - maximizing the expertise of corporate and law firm attorneys to assist nonprofit organizations," said Rick Hobish, co-founder and executive director. "Their contribution is especially important in today's climate when nonprofits need more support than ever," he added.

UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest employers in Connecticut, currently has 15 attorneys and five paralegals donating time and services. Over the last year, these volunteers assisted dozens of local nonprofits that provide critical services such as school-based healthcare, rides for the elderly and sight impaired, educational curricula to fight drug use and bullying, reading services for the blind, support to child care centers, and assistance to community health centers, to name a few.

"The impact of UnitedHealth Group's work on our organization has been essential to ensure that our healthcare services are administered and operated well within the legal standards of federal and state requirements," said Deborah Poerio, president & CEO of Integrated Health Services, Inc., a nonprofit based in Hartford, CT that provides healthcare services to disadvantaged children.

Forty years ago, Hogan & Hartson was the first U.S. law firm to create a separate department to develop and foster pro bono work. They continue that tradition with support for several Pro Bono Partnership clients. Recently, a team of lawyers from Hogan & Hartson dedicated dozens of hours to facilitate a comprehensive corporate restructuring of a multifaceted New York social service agency. "The agency could never have afforded counsel for such a major undertaking," said Rick Hobish. "With Hogan's experts to guide them, a much-streamlined agency is now operating more efficiently and has saved thousands of dollars that can be used to promote its clients' self-sufficiency and help transform the local community."

"Hogan & Hartson is very proud of the partnership it has formed with the Pro Bono Partnership. It gives us an opportunity to join with our clients in doing what we do best: Adding value to the community in which we live. We look forward to working together for many years to come," said Steve Edwards of Hogan & Hartson LLP, New York.

Stacey Babson-Smith has been with the Terex Corporation for seven years. She has also been a volunteer with the Pro Bono Partnership for seven years, and one of her premiere projects has been to support Neighbor to Neighbor, a community food bank in Greenwich, CT.

"Stacey enabled us to deal with issues ranging from hiring a teenager to terminating an employee without having to divert our resources by hiring a human resources consultant," says Cathy Lynch, executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor. "She has proven to be amazingly available, knowledgeable and professional in all our work with her."

"The Pro Bono Partnership enables not-for-profits with limited resources to make a positive impact in our local community, providing programs for the disadvantaged. Without the commitment from the legal community, the Pro Bono Partnership and the not-for-profits that it serves cannot meet their missions. Essentially, we, as lawyers, have an opportunity to improve the lives of others in our community," said Babson-Smith.

Amy L. Festante, a 2008 graduate of New York Law School, has made a significant pro bono contribution with the support of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. One of her most visible projects was assisting The Children's House, a child care center in Verona, NJ, during several challenging issues concerning their lease of space they had occupied for over 40 years.

"Amy was highly effective in assisting the client's board with strategic thinking and approaches to negotiating a reasonable resolution with the landlord and responded quickly to help the client with letters and revised documents, even on short notice," said Nancy Eberhardt, Director of the Pro Bono Partnership's New Jersey program.

"Pro Bono Partnership promotes fairness in the legal system," says Festante. "Nonprofit organizations that need legal services and otherwise could not afford representation are able to have competent counsel with access to legal resources. I believe the representation gives clients confidence and peace of mind because they know there is someone looking out for their best interests."

Steve Moll has assisted several nonprofits in southern Connecticut, including St. Luke's LifeWorks of Stamford, and says, "the more work I have done with the Partnership, the more I have enjoyed it. The clients are so incredibly grateful."

"Steve's advice allowed us to address some critical issues with confidence," said Martey S. Rhine, former interim executive director of St. Luke's LifeWorks. "He has listened carefully, thoroughly thought out alternatives, assessed possible negative consequences, provided templates and reviewed the documents we prepared."

The Pro Bono Partnership fulfills its mission by assisting nonprofit organizations that serve poor or disadvantaged individuals and families, arts and civic organizations, and environmental and conservation groups; and by providing a wide range of opportunities for attorneys in corporations and law firms to work on rewarding pro bono business and transactional matters. Since 1997, the Pro Bono Partnership has coordinated with its 1,800 volunteers to undertake approximately 4,000 legal matters for 1,500 nonprofit organizations, providing advice on more than 650 new legal matters annually.