May 2019 Volunteer Spotlight - Legal Aid Society Volunteer Attorney Stuart Cobert
Stuart Cobert has been a lawyer for 35 years. His career has included a federal district court clerkship in Los Angeles, a decade and a half as a litigator at Paul Weiss in New York City, and work at Unilever, where he managed the company’s United States litigation and antitrust issues. His work at Unilever included a time spent acting as the general counsel of Ben & Jerry’s. During that time he not only got free ice cream, but also a close look at how a corporation can be both profitable and a force for social and economic justice. Upon retiring in 2015, Stuart joined The Legal Aid Society as a volunteer attorney.
Stuart has been involved in pro bono work since his days at Harvard Law School, where he worked in the school’s legal services center and represented Massachusetts state inmates in prison disciplinary proceedings. He continued his commitment to pro bono work at Paul Weiss, where he first encountered The Legal Aid Society. Among other things, he worked on criminal appeals and argued a case to compel New York City to establish better discharge planning and programs for homeless patients discharged from mental hospitals.
In 2015 he joined Legal Aid as a volunteer, working 3-5 days per week out of the Harlem Community Law Office. His work has included handling housing cases in Civil and Supreme Courts and providing training and counseling to Legal Aid staff attorneys. One case he cites as a rew
arding experience is a matter in which a tenant association on the Upper West Side has been trying for over 15 years to have the rent stabilization laws apply to their apartments. Along with Legal Aid attorneys, he has been working on this case which presents interesting issues of constitutional and administrative law and federalism. While the case is not yet resolved, they have seen success in the trial court and the First Department.
“Doing pro bono work has been incredibly rewarding,” said Stuart when asked about his experience. “It is heartbreaking to see the problems our clients face and it is great to be able to help in any way to improve their situations.” He also talks about how rewarding it is to work with younger staff attorneys and paralegals to provide guidance and advice on cases, based on his years of experience. “I am so impressed by these young lawyers at LAS not just for their first class intellect and legal skills,” he said, “but also for their willingness to dedicate their careers to public interest work. They set a fine example for all of us to follow.” Likewise, the Legal Aid staff who work with Stuart find that he is a wonderful example to follow and look forward to continuing their partnership with him.
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