Legal Aid of Nebraska celebrates Pro Bono Month

We would like to recognize the following volunteer attorneys for making equal justice happen with Legal Aid of Nebraska!

We asked our volunteer attorneys some questions about why they volunteer at Legal Aid, read about their experiences here.   Are you a licensed attorney in Nebraska interested in volunteering with Legal Aid? Send us an email: probono@legalaidofnebraska.org

Any time I get to interact with the people that Legal Aid serves is rewarding.  Recently there was a name change clinic for LGBTQIA2S+ adults living in Douglas County.  I was grateful for the opportunity to work with individuals during such an exciting and affirming event in their lives.

I am very privileged to have been able to go to law school and become an attorney.  I recognize that this opportunity has provided me with specific skills that can help people in very meaningful ways.  Volunteering with Legal Aid is a great way to do use those skills to help others, because Legal Aid identifies the needs of people in our community and facilitates the connections between lawyers and the populations that most need these legal services. 

A partner at Lamson Dugan & Murray invited me to attend a clinic with her, and I have just continued to volunteer since then.  Once you sign up for one clinic, it’s easy to just keep saying yes when future opportunities arise.  You see a lot of the same volunteers regularly at the clinics, and you build relationships with the Legal Aid staff and other volunteers.  The people you meet are very passionate about helping others, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Volunteering with Legal Aid is something that anyone can do.  As a lawyer, I thought that I could only go to clinics for areas of law that I was already familiar with through my work as an attorney.  However, I quickly learned that Legal Aid provides volunteer attorneys the training and materials that you need to participate in the clinics.  You can participate in a meaningful way even if a clinic is outside the scope of your usual practice areas. 

Each and every moment where we are able to help clients “get the monkey off their back” and move forward with their lives.

Resolving issues with the IRS and the Nebraska Department of Revenue can be frustrating and challenging even for the practiced professional.  Assisting clients navigate the administrative and legal process who otherwise would not have access is crucial for the system to work.  On a more basic level, it’s the right thing to do.

Many in our community need someone to listen to their story as much as offer legal advice. Legal Aid represents the unrepresented and, oftentimes, the unheard.  Being able to meet members of our community and hearing their stories is just one reason I keep volunteering for Legal Aid.

Don’t hesitate, it is truly rewarding!  Legal Aid provides an amazing opportunity to work with a dedicated team of lawyers and administrators as well as many other volunteers in our community. 

My favorite moment working with Legal Aid so far has probably been when, after substantial legwork and negotiation, the IRS agreed to reduce a client’s alleged past-due liability by over 98%, saving this senior citizen thousands.

I love client advocacy. And, trained as both an accountant and attorney, taking on tax controversy clients continues to be a natural fit for me.

Apart from the satisfaction of helping vulnerable taxpayers, the professionalism and support of the staff at Legal Aid has kept me involved. Shirley Peng and crew have been wonderful to work with.

Just do it! Find your legal niche and persevere – for your clients, community, and yourself. Begin with one case and work from there.

My favorite moment was assisting a woman during one of our 2020 Set Aside and Record Sealing Clinics. Given constraints, we met virtually via video conference—me in my cramped apartment and her from a car in the parking lot of the restaurant where she worked. In a half-hour filled with stories, tears, and talks about her hopes for what was next, I assisted her in getting her records set aside so that she could move onto a new job to better provide for her family. In such a hard time for so many, it meant everything that Legal Aid continued in its mission to serve, and we were able to give life-changing services to those who need them, where they need them, when they need them.

My time with Legal Aid is the most meaningful time I spend professionally each month. As representatives of the legal system, and as leaders in our communities, the members of the bar owe it to our communities and our profession to volunteer time and meet the most vulnerable members of our community where they are. My time with Legal Aid helps me meet that obligation and helps me give back to a community that has given me so much.

The lives we impact with our time at Legal Aid are forever changed, and that keeps me energized in a demanding job. Being an attorney can be a grind, especially when deals require long hours or cases are on tight deadlines. Volunteering with Legal Aid is a small investment of time with a huge return in terms of both the satisfaction I get from the work I do there and the difference I’m making in client’s lives. Oh… and the Legal Aid SWAG and free coffee helps, too!

Go; you won’t regret it! These clinics are simple enough that I could help with them fresh out of school, and you’re sure to hear a story—and make an impact on someone—that will expand your perspective as a practitioner and community member. The hardest step of any journey is the first, and I promise that taking this step is worth your while both personally and professionally.

 

Earlier this year, I volunteered for the Name Change Clinic. One of my clients had suffered abuse and isolation from family members based on their gender identity. Changing their name was the first step in reclaiming their life. Being a part of this moment was truly special and shows the impact pro bono work has on marginalized populations, including the LGBTQIA+ community.

Legal Aid of Nebraska provides many opportunities to Nebraska attorneys to give back to the community. I volunteer because so many people in Nebraska cannot afford basic legal services. These legal services are life changing and allow for both an immediate and future impact to enrich the lives of Nebraskans. 

While we cannot solve the world’s problems and maybe we only have a little time to give to others, even the smallest amount of time and resources and can make a significant impact on someone’s life. This is what being a volunteer is all about. I am grateful that Legal Aid connects volunteers to members of the community in need. 

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