To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :
A Call to Action:"When in Doubt, Do Something" -Participation in NYCLA Pro Bono Programs
During my inaugural remarks on May 26, 2011, in St. Paul's Chapel, in the shadow of Ground Zero, I issued a call to action using the words of singer-songwriter Harry Chapin: "When in doubt, do something." We all, as members of the profession, have a duty to give back. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is tremendously gratifying and satisfying.
Many of our NYCLA members have done, and continue to do, much for those in need of legal services through NYCLA's many pro bono programs. If you are not already NYCLA members, NYCLA welcomes in-house corporate counsel to participate in these programs. Here are a few examples:
One of the most innovative and successful pro bono programs that NYCLA currently offers is known as "Project Restore." Launched in 2008, Project Restore provides pro bono assistance to New Yorkers who were convicted of crimes, have completed their sentences, and have not re-offended, but have been denied vocational licenses (e.g., to become a security guard, barber, real estate broker, etc.) by the New York State Department of State on the basis of their past convictions. Volunteer attorneys provide legal representation at the license appeal hearing, and collaborate with a network of community service organizations to identify potential clients and provide ancillary services to them. Project Restore, which is the only program of its kind operated by a bar association, has been overwhelmingly successful in obtaining vocational licenses for its clients and thus helping them lead productive lives and avoid recidivism. Thus far, of the 42 clients represented, 40 have been awarded licenses.
U.S. Tax Court Project
NYCLA is the first bar association in New York to offer a Tax Court Pro Bono Program. This project provides counseling to clients seeking advice in the area of tax law at calendar call sessions of the U.S. Tax Court conducted in New York. No representation of any kind is undertaken and volunteer lawyers will not be required to enter an appearance. Clients are advised by volunteers while appearing pro se before the U.S. Tax Court. Volunteers may be asked to consult with pro se petitioners regarding the merits of their cases and evaluate any settlement proposals from the Internal Revenue Service, act as a communicator or mediator between the parties in an effort to assist in resolving the case and provide procedural advice to pro se petitioners who decide to proceed to trial.
Legal Counseling Project
This project provides counseling to clients four times a month on an appointment-only basis in the areas of family, employment, consumer bankruptcy and landlord/tenant law. No representation of any kind is undertaken. Clients are prepared during the clinics for pro se representation. Volunteer attorneys may be asked to review documents, answer questions, discuss areas of concern that the client should be aware of when entering into certain agreements or point out various methods whereby the client can either correct a problem or seek appropriate assistance and direction. Mentors, who are experienced in the four practice areas, are available by telephone on each clinic night to assist volunteers.
For further information regarding these or other NYCLA pro bono programs, contact Lois Davis, director of Pro B ono Programs, at 212-267-6646 ext. 217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I invite Metropolitan Corporate Counsel readers to join NYCLA. You can also visit our website at www.nycla.org and click on "Calendar" to view the full list of NYCLA activities, which include upcoming CLE programs, committee meetings, membership events and pro bono events. You can also follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nyclapres.
Stewart D. Aaron