The Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor Foundation (VLPF) is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year! The VLPF was co-founded by the CBA and Legal Aid, under the inspired leadership of Harry Santen and Jerry Lawson, to enable private attorneys to offer their pro bono services to assist low income individuals in our community through the Volunteer Lawyers Project. In recent years, the VLP has expanded both the types of cases and the levels of service offered. In the past five years, volunteer attorneys have accepted 7,164 cases, serving 15,882 individuals and families.
We look forward to commemorating The VLPF’s 35th anniversary during National Pro Bono week. Mark your calendars to join us at a reception from 5:30-7 p.m. on October 25, 2017. VLP board member Mike Roberts and his Graydon partners will be our hosts.
The evening will acknowledge the work of our dedicated law firm and corporate pro bono coordinators who have diligently shepherded clients in need of assistance to volunteer attorneys. We will also share stories of the impact our volunteers have made on the lives of our clients.
I want to recognize the work of a few of our law firm and corporate partners. Dinsmore supports the VLP by taking a wide variety of cases and by providing expertise to train other attorneys volunteering at our Wills and Advance Directive Clinics. I wish to commend Alan Abes, who served as Dinsmore’s firm coordinator for 14 years, during which time Dinsmore attorneys handled over 900 cases. They’ve specialized in taking Hamilton County expungement cases, resulting in hundreds of clients becoming employed and stabilizing their lives. Doug Feichtner recently took over for Abes and he, as well as many of his colleagues, have represented countless clients in a wide variety of legal matters.
In particular, Bonnie Camden has been instrumental in supporting and training volunteers who staff our wills clinics. Special thanks to Murray Griess who has served as the GE wills clinics coordinator for the past seven years. Over the past year, Camden, Griess and their colleagues have assisted the VLP in expanding these clinics to offsite locations in Butler, Clinton, and Clermont Counties, The Community Action Agency and Jewish Family Services at the Mayerson Center to help a wider variety of clients, including holocaust survivors.
In 2016, VLPF board member Ali Razzaghi became Frost Brown Todd’s (FBT) firm coordinator, following VLPF board member David Olsen. For many years, Legal Aid has recognized the unmet need of low income, unaccompanied children, who had fled their Central American home countries due to violence and poverty, in seeking lawful status to remain in the U.S.
In response, Razzaghi organized an FBT team to help these children pursue the specific legal remedy of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. In May 2016, Legal Aid and Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio attorneys held training for the FBT volunteers who immediately began handling these complex cases. FBT is currently representing 15 adolescents. Each case requires appearances before the juvenile court, the Cleveland Immigration Court and United States Customs and Immigration Service. These cases are in addition to the many other matters handled by FBT attorneys. In total, FBT has taken 97 cases since 2012.
Two corporate legal departments have contributed to the VLP over the past five years, notably by accepting housing and education case referrals from Legal Aid’s Child HeLP medical-legal partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Spearheaded by current VLPF board president Joe Heyd, attorneys at Procter & Gamble began accepting cases in 2013. VLPF board member, Phil Smith and his colleagues at GE Aviation also began handling Child HeLP referrals in 2013. Together, these corporate legal departments have taken on 60 cases.
I also want to express my thanks to the 64 attorneys who have volunteered at the Family Law Clinic to date. More about this clinic can be found in the annual report. And, please consider volunteering at the new Hamilton County Juvenile Court Custody and Visitation Clinic opening in September.
Midway through our fourth decade, I am energized by all the VLP has accomplished and looking forward to the future. Thank you to all our volunteers for your continued support.
Anne Lucas, Managing Attorney of the VLP