cbareport_Oct12 - page 18

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October 2012 CBA REPORT
in the spotlight
the courts in which its volunteers serve.
Judge Susan Laker Tolbert, Adminis-
trative Judge of the Hamilton County
Domestic Relations Court, helps recruit
volunteers and has implemented pro-
cedures that make divorce proceedings
more affordable for low income indi-
viduals. Brown County Common Pleas
Court Judge Scott Gusweiler does the
same. Hamilton County Domestic Rela-
tions Court, along with courts in Butler,
Clermont, Warren and Brown Counties,
has implemented Divorce Clinics that
provide expedited procedures for simple
divorces. Other courts assisted in the
establishment of Limited Representation
programs that have allowed volunteer
attorneys to assist homeowners facing
foreclosure negotiate with their lenders.
This effort has helped save hundreds of
homes in our seven county service area
for the families who live in them.
Volunteers are the Most
Important Component of All
None of the work of the VLP would
be possible, of course, without the hun-
dreds of attorneys who volunteer their
time and expertise. Some attorneys were
initially encouraged by their firms to
take VLP cases as young associates, and
have remained as volunteers long after
achieving more senior status. Today,
more than 700 attorneys are registered
to accept referrals from the VLP, and
serve approximately 1,600 individu-
als and families per year. The attorneys
come from all types of practice including
most of the large law firms in Cincin-
nati, corporate legal departments, public
defenders, and solo and small firm
practitioners. Many of these attorneys
and firms also support the VLP through
generous financial donations.
Dinsmore & Shohl attorney Rick
Porotsky just completed a difficult and
protracted custody battle on behalf of a
VLP referred client and had this to say:
Contributing to the community is
a big part of why I decided to become a
lawyer. While the legal system is a tool
to help all of us solve problems, some
individuals can’t afford to access that
tool. VLP and Legal Aid are essential for
those individuals. …I hope that by work-
ing with the few individuals I am able to
serve through the VLP, I am able to make
a positive impact on their lives and the
legal system. I truly feel that VLP allows
me the opportunity to put some of my
professional skills to their highest and
best use in serving the community.”
Other attorneys appreciate the
practical experience they receive. Keat-
ing Muething & Klekamp attorney Tony
Verticchio represented a woman who
was living in a mold infested apartment,
which contributed to her children’s seri-
ous medical conditions. Despite an order
from the Board of Health to remedy the
situation, the landlord refused to remedi-
ate and sued the client for back rent. Tony
counterclaimed for damages and the
court awarded his client $4,000, enough
to help her and her children move to a
safe and healthy environment.
According to Tony, “Performing pro
bono legal services for those who cannot
afford an attorney should be an impor-
tant part of any lawyer’s practice. During
law school I worked at a legal aid clinic
in St. Louis and found it to be a very
rewarding experience, both in terms of
helping others and in terms of gaining
practical experience. The same has been
true of the pro bono work I have done by
participating in VLP. In addition to gain-
ing experience in a courtroom and with
pre-trial preparation such as depositions,
discovery, and settlement negotiations,
I have taken great pride in successfully
representing people who may not other-
wise have had a voice.”
Some attorneys express appreciation
for the opportunity to improve the image
of the legal profession. Longtime volun-
teer Charles (Chuck) Hollis expressed
his feelings in these words, “Pro bono
work redeems us as individuals, but it
also redeems our collective image as a
profession. Too often the public stereo-
types attorneys as avaricious, egotistical,
opportunistic and cynical. Through pro
bono work with organizations such as
VLP, we can shatter this often unfair im-
age one case at a time.”
And there is no doubt that attorneys
who volunteer with the VLP shatter
those images every day. The VLP has
received hundreds of letters, phone calls
and notes from grateful clients who
express their sincere appreciation for the
help they have received.
Thirty years is a long time for any
organization to be able to facilitate so
much good in the community, and the
VLP is so thankful to everyone who has
had a hand in its work over the years.
The VLP’s success is a great tribute to the
many generous professionals who live
and work in southwest Ohio. This is truly
a better place for all of us to live because
of their generous spirits.
Whitman is the managing attorney of the Volunteer
Lawyers Project of Legal Aid Society of Greater
Cincinnati.
25
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None of the work of the VLP would be possible,
of course, without the hundreds of attorneys who
volunteer their time and expertise.
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