Winter 2018 Volunteer Spotlight: LiveHelp Chat Navigator Stephanie Feldt
LiveHelp volunteers provide www.LawHelpNY.org visitors real-time assistance by pointing them to resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp is staffed primarily by law students, law graduates, and volunteer attorneys, under the supervision of a LawHelpNY staff attorney. If you have any questions about becoming a LiveHelp volunteer, please email Aimee Latorre, the LiveHelp Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lawhelpny.org utilizes volunteer capacity to run the LiveHelp Chat Navigator program, through which volunteer attorneys and students live chat with users of lawhelpny.org, ask users questions and, based on their responses, provide direction within the site so users can find the legal resources they are looking for. This month, we're spotlighting one of our volunteers, Stephanie Feldt, who uses her spare time to provide volunteer legal services in a number of ways.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in pro bono legal work.
I am currently both a CA and NJ licensed attorney with admission pending in NY focused on financial services compliance. I am currently a consultant but have accepted a position at a financial services firm to become its Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel starting in January. I became interested in pro bono legal work while applying to admission to the CA bar in 2000. Working in the corporate world does not always give you the satisfaction of accomplishment. So I decided to involve myself with organizations that allowed me to use my legal training to help others knowing that I was making a difference, though small, in the lives of others.
How long have you been volunteering for?
I have been volunteering for a few different programs over the past several years. I volunteered at the San Francisco SPCA working with dogs to try and get them adopted out to loving families. I currently volunteer at the ASPCA and the Liberty Humane Society specifically working with dogs as well as working at adoption events in an effort to get them adopted. Some of the most difficult but rewarding cases are those where I work with dogs that have severe behavioral issues and watch them progress in a positive way and eventually get adopted into their forever homes. I have also assisted in cases involving asylum refugees and individuals that have been evicted from low income housing while living in San Francisco. Even though many of these cases do not end in positive results, it is always rewarding to know that I did the best that I could in helping those in need.
Why did you decide to do pro bono volunteer work?
I decided to become a pro bono volunteer to help those in need. I find it very rewarding to know that I may have helped just one person during a very difficult time in his/her life.
Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?
The most important reason to do pro bono work is to provide a benefit to the community that might otherwise not be available. You have legal and other skills that are in short supply and are in great need. The cost of skilled legal services is very high and beyond the reach of many. I am personally motivated by the knowledge that I am helping someone who is in desperate need of assistance.
Did you learn any new skills during your experience?
I believe the most notable skill I learned was being more patient. I have never been a very patient person but when doing any type of volunteer work, you need to learn how to be patient no matter what the cause. I find that when I am patient, I am much calmer and more helpful to others who need it.
What would your advice be to someone who is thinking about volunteering?
I believe that you really need to pick a cause that you feel passionate about in order to provide the best services to those in need. I am personally passionate about helping animals as well as using my legal skills to assist those that need help. That is why I have been involved in both types of volunteering opportunities for so many years.
Will you continue to do pro bono work? Would you recommend it to others?
I hope to continue to do pro bono work for as long as I am able to do so. You can be very good at your job and even make a lot of money doing it, however, I believe that you achieve a much deeper sense of accomplishment knowing that you have helped others in your community.
What did you find most challenging about your pro bono work?
I guess the most challenging aspect doing pro bono work is not putting too much pressure on myself. I am legally blind and have been so since birth so I am not able to read or type as fast as others. I needed to just take a breath and relax so that I could most effectively help a particular person.
Interested in submitting a volunteer profile? Email us to find out how!
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!