VLSP Volunteer Uses Humor and Compassion

  • 2/3/2004
  • VLSP
How many attorneys does it take to make a crowd laugh? With VLSP volunteer attorney Bob Douglas, it just takes one. Aside from volunteering regularly for VLSP, Bob also performs occasionally in the Bay Area as a stand-up comedian under the stage name "The Crippled Comic". He has been making people laugh for the past 35 years. Bob's humor and his dedication to pro bono work make him one of the Volunteer Legal Services Program's most unique and outstanding volunteers.

Not only does Bob have a way with the crowd as a comedian, but he also brings his sense of humor to bear on his pro bono cases. Bob remembers one court appearance during which the opposing attorney asked Bob's client why he thought the landlord was trying to evict him. His client answered, "Because I'm driving him crazy." Fortunately, Bob was still able to settle the case.

Previously a social worker, Bob was introduced to VLSP more than 15 years ago, when he was fresh out of law school and in his 40's. He took his first pro bono case in 1987, and has worked with 17 VLSP clients since then. Bob's pro bono caseload has been diverse, covering such areas as family law, disability law, tort defense and landlord tenant law.

Pro bono work gives Bob a chance to help people and gain valuable experience, while adding variety to his practice. For five years, Bob's practice primarily focused on worker's compensation cases and volunteering with VLSP represented a welcome change in his routine.

Bob is particularly enthusiastic about VLSP's Eviction Defense Project. Eviction cases are a crucial part of VLSP's work, making up about 30% of all our cases each year. As a previous board member of a homeless shelter provider and a current board member of the San Francisco Mental Health Board, Bob has a firsthand understanding of the importance of housing cases. He knows that legal advocacy is essential for clients facing eviction in the Bay Area, where a lack of affordable housing can leave clients homeless. Therefore, he likes to see eviction cases through to the very end to ensure the best possible result for his client. He finds that being able to keep a client in a home is the most rewarding experience in his pro bono work.

Always approachable and willing to help, Bob does not shy away from sensitive issues like domestic violence. He also makes himself available for complex or last minute cases, which can be especially difficult to place with a volunteer attorney. On more than one occasion, Bob has jumped in at the eleventh hour, stepping in just a week before a settlement conference or giving a client a consultation a day before the trial!

To learn more about how you can volunteer with the Eviction Prevention Project, email Amanda Chavez or call her at (415) 782-8956 for more information.

  • Pro Bono / Legal Services