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NYC PRO BONO CENTER VOLUNTEER FEATURE: Reed Smith Adopts Elder Law Clinics

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

  • Organization: City Bar Justice Center

Last year, Reed Smith, LLP adopted two of the City Bar Justice Center's Elderlaw Project legal clinics. The project serves poor and elderly New Yorkers in their struggle to live independent, safe and healthy lives. Elderlaw Project clients have limited resources, and many are unable to advocate for themselves. Volunteers from Reed Smith staff monthly legal clinics at two senior centers. Reed Smith attorneys Joseph Treloar, Zoe Feinberg, Jennifer Feminella, Casey Laffey and Paul Rooney have volunteered at the clinics, providing seniors with invaluable assistance on a wide variety of issues, including public benefits, life planning, consumer and other issues.

Reed Smith's work on helping seniors to access or maintain vital benefits has been particularly invaluable. In one case, a low-income senior received Medicare-related bills totaling thousands of dollars. With the help of a Reed Smith associate, the client was found to be eligible for Medicaid assistance and was immediately enrolled in the appropriate program, thereby ensuring coverage of accrued and future Medicare bills. Another Reed Smith attorney helped a homeless elderly man obtaining social security payments of almost $500 per month, after he had been wrongly told by Social Security that he was ineligible.

Reed Smith's involvement in the project has made a fundamental difference in the lives of this underserved and at-risk population. According to Reed Smith Counsel, Paul Rooney, "what's most satisfying is that you can have an immediate positive impact. I've had the opportunity to assist with two wills and seeing the sense of relief on the faces of our clients once we've had them sign the will was just great". Mr. Rooney has partnered with fellow counsel, Scott Sherman, a trust and estates lawyer, to draft wills. He has also represented a disabled man before the social security administration, and assisted a veteran with a benefits appeal. Mr. Rooney knows the value of having the firm involved in the Project. "We're fortunate to have the resources of a full service firm to draw upon," Rooney said.

That sentiment is echoed by Vivienne Duncan, Director of the Justice Center's Elderlaw Project who says, "Reed Smith's volunteers have been excellent advocates for our clients. They have helped seniors who would otherwise have had no representation, and they are willing to advocate zealously to ensure that their rights are protected and upheld. In particular, their dedication has improved the lives of clients who would not otherwise have received vital public benefits."

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