April 2018 Volunteer Spotlight: John Bryant

Each year, The Legal Aid Society works with thousands of volunteers ranging from law firm volunteers to student interns. One group of dedicated volunteers come to us through the Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP), which engages transitioning and retiring attorneys in public interest work. While we have found great value in utilizing the experience that these volunteers bring to our organization, we have also found that they enjoy working with our attorneys to address critical issues facing our clients.

One unit with a number of AEP volunteers is our Brooklyn Office for the Aging (BOFTA). This office hosts five volunteers, Roger Hawke, Sherre Levene, Bob Bailey, Chris Evans, and the most recent addition, John Bryant.

John attended the University of Michigan for both his undergraduate studies and law school, and first went to work at a federal regulatory agency in Washington, D.C. He subsequently moved back to Michigan and was in private practice as a civil litigator from 1973 until 2012. John and his wife then chose to move to New York for their semi-retirement both because they have a son who lives here, and because of all the City has to offer. In 2015, John began volunteering with Legal Aid. “Volunteering at Legal Aid in Brooklyn has allowed me to see a different side of New York and give something back to the community,” he said of his experience.

John came to Legal Aid because of our reputation for providing effective legal assistance to New Yorkers in need. “Affiliating with Legal Aid seemed like a good way to apply my skills to an organization that had an established professional program designed to help an underserved segment of the population.”

John volunteers two days per week and assists our attorneys with legal writing and legal research on various issues. He also meets with clients and in some cases, shares trial responsibilities with staff attorneys. His wealth of experience and litigation expertise enhance the representation we are able to provide to our clients. This work also allows John to continue to do things that he particularly enjoyed doing as a litigator in private practice.

“Clearly the most enjoyable part of volunteering is obtaining successful results for clients,” John said when asked what part of volunteering he has most enjoyed. “Often these clients both have special needs and have not had good experiences in their prior dealings with the legal system.” Working with clients to achieve a successful outcome results in a positive experience for everyone involved.

A pleasant surprise for him has been the willingness of judges to consider new arguments. “A number of the matters I have worked on have involved unique legal issues” he notes, “often requiring arguments to be presented that are outside the normal experience of the particular courts or agencies.” The fact that judges and agencies have been willing to consider novel arguments that he has helped to develop has been a rewarding part of the work.

John also enjoys partnering with the other volunteers and BOFTA staff. “I can’t speak highly enough of the people I work with here at BOFTA,” said John. “This has been a very positive experience that I look forward to continuing.” Legal Aid also looks forward to his continued commitment to the Society and is grateful to John and his fellow volunteers for the critical and important work they do to expand and strengthen the services we are able to provide to our clients

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Interested in volunteering?  Start searching for pro bono opportunities by interest area (e.g. family, asylum), community served (e.g. domestic violence victims, children) or location right now by using our interactive NY Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!