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Volunteer Spotlight: AIDS Legal Referral Panel Attorney Michael Blacksburg

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

  • By: Brooke Harris
  • Organization: ALRP

Michael Blacksburg came to Landlord/Tenant Law by circumstance, but is now a committed and charismatic solo practitioner and star volunteer for the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.

Michael officially settled in the Bay Area in May 2001 with a job as a corporate attorney. However, his job fell with the economy, and through a colleague, James Michel, Michael took a pro bono Landlord/Tenant case with VLSP and settled the case for his clients for $20,000. As they say, the rest is history, and Michael is now an accomplished Landlord/Tenant attorney.

Michael got involved with ALRP last year, after talking to a law school classmate and ALRP housing attorney Molly Stafford. Since then, he has been a prolific panel member, taking on eviction defense, insurance, and wills cases, and also serving as a mentor to attorneys less experienced in Landlord/Tenant law.

What excites Michael most about his work with ALRP is the service he brings to some of San Francisco's most vulnerable residents who are facing eviction. He notes, "I love hearing the change of demeanor of the opposing counsel when they realize that the tenant is represented by an attorney. It forces them to treat the case-and my clients-with a lot more dignity."

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Volunteering is also a great way for Michael to improve his practice. He believes that his service to ALRP and other pro bono work has enabled him to be a more competent and compassionate attorney. "I've learned more from volunteer cases than I could possibly have learned at a firm. With these cases, I have no one going over my documents, I navigated going to court for the first time, and I am forced to do my best work in order to properly represent my clients."

When Michael is not volunteering for ALRP and working on cases through his practice, he enjoys going to movies at the Red Vic, cooking, exploring San Francisco's cultural side (often going to see DJs that are former clients) and being a member of the Burning Man community.

"The high coming home from the courthouse knowing that a client gets to stay in their apartment or that they have a $10,000 settlement is incomparable," he says. Michael is an exceptional advocate for the Bay Area HIV/AIDS community, and an asset to ALRP!

Interested in joining the AIDS Legal Referral Panel? Contact ALRP's Volunteer Coordinator Brooke Harris at (415) 701-1200, ext. 303 or brooke@alrp.org.

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