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Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) Focus on Children: School-Based Project with Law Firms

Thursday, October 16, 2008

  • Organization: VOLS

This article has been shared from the VOLS Pro Bono Forum newsletter. To learn more about VOLS and read more articles, please visit their website, www.volsprobono.org.

In this project, Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) matches law firms with schools to address civil legal problems facing families- housing, immigration, termination of public benefits- that threaten to disrupt the education of their children.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is matched with the Bushwick Campus in Brooklyn comprising these four high schools: The Bushwick School for Social Justice; Academy of Urban Planning; Academy for Environmental Leadership; and the New York Harbor School. Lawyers from the firm conduct monthly legal clinics at the Bushwick Campus on the first Tuesday of every month. Forty-one Simpson Thacher lawyers and five
paralegals are participating in the project. In addition, the lawyers have held sessions with parents, teachers and students to discuss both legal issues and the project.

Debevoise & Plimpton is matched by VOLS with KIPP Academy, a middle school in the Mott Haven/Morrisana section of the Bronx. A grandmother, who is the legal
guar-dian of a student there, writes about being a Debevoise client: "I was referred to two amazing young attorneys. More importantly, they both proved to be two amazingly talented people. Not only did they demonstrate professional excellence in making sure my granddaughter got the financial support she has been entitled to for years, they also demonstrated tremendous compassion, patience [and] concern….I kept a journal of my journey through the Family Court System. The tone of my journal transitioned from despair to confidence and assurance that I would gain victory…."

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson is matched with P.S. 146, an elementary school in East Harlem. The school has a large immigrant population and many children with mental or physical disabilities. The social worker at the school writes of the project: Families "have come up to me to thank me and update me on the progress they are making in cases the firm has helped them with. This project is such a success! They are feeling so supported and hopeful…."

Last spring, 15 administrative personnel from Fried, Frank volunteered at P.S. 146, in partnership with Children for Children, to read books to first and second graders and then work with the children to make cat toys and dog bandanas to donate to a local animal shelter. As can be imagined, there was much enthusiasm and goodwill generated by the visit.

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