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Nov/Dec 2009 Volunteer Feature: City Bar Justice Center Honors Cooley Godward Kronish LLP Associates for Work with the Legal Clinic for the Homeless

The City Bar Justice Center is delighted to honor Ben Kusmin and Lauren Fishman of Cooley Godward Kronish LLP for their work on behalf of homeless women and children. Together, the two have led the firm's involvement with the Justice Center's Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

Ben first contacted the Justice Center in 2007 when searching for pro bono opportunities. When Legal Clinic for the Homeless Director Lisa Pearlstein told him a group of lawyers was needed to partner with a homeless shelter, Ben talked to Cooley's pro bono partner and organized a cadre of highly committed lawyers at his firm, including Lauren.

The firm was first paired with a shelter in Manhattan, but after only 6 monthly clinics there, the shelter closed. Cooley then paired with another shelter, Icahn House Bronx, and has staffed a legal clinic there on a monthly basis ever since. Since 2007 more than a dozen Cooley associates have participated in the program, assisting over 60 homeless families.

In addition to coordinating the firm's efforts, Lauren and Ben have taken on multiple matters themselves. Ben has worked on 19 cases and attended 8 legal clinics, winning approximately $9,000 in retroactive benefits owed to 10 homeless families. Lauren has represented 15 homeless families in 24 matters, and has won over $10,500 in retroactive benefits for her clients.

"Working with my clients at the homeless shelter has been an extremely rewarding experience," says Lauren. "All of the women I have represented have been hard-working and caring mothers who are doing their best to navigate an extremely confusing system. My clients are very appreciative that I have been able to help them obtain the benefits to which they are entitled," she continues.

Ben echoes Lauren's sentiments. "Helping single mothers move out of the shelter system and get back on their feet again is one of the most rewarding things I've done as an attorney," he says. "Lisa Pearlstein and her staff [at the City Bar Justice Center] are true experts in New York welfare law, and they enthusiastically support the volunteer attorneys at Cooley."

Lisa Pearlstein is similarly enthusiastic about the work done by Cooley volunteers. "Lauren and Ben are skilled advocates who are compassionate and understanding," she says. "We are so grateful that Cooley Godward sends wonderful committed lawyers like Ben and Lauren to our clinic for homeless families."

The City Bar Justice Center is grateful to all Cooley attorneys who have worked hard to positively impact the lives of so many homeless families, and is especially grateful for the leadership provided by Ben and Lauren.

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