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Meet Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Changemakers

Susan Reff - Omaha

Susan Reff

Susan Reff

Volunteer Attorney

How are you connected to Legal Aid?

As a volunteer lawyer, I play an important role in supporting Legal Aid’s mission to provide legal services to those who cannot afford representation.

What brought you to Legal Aid?

As a lawyer, I feel that I am privileged in that I have skills that can be used to help people through difficult situations. I have used this privilege to assist Legal Aid clients through their cases.

How have you helped Legal Aid create equal justice?

The Court system is inherently unfair to people without lawyers. The types of cases that I have helped Legal Aid clients with are cases that I have done many, many times before. But, for this client, it may be the most important case in their life.

What difference have you seen happen because of Legal Aid?

Due to representation by Legal Aid lawyers, clients have received outcomes in Court that they probably wouldn’t have been able to get by themselves.

Why is Legal Aid important?

Without Legal Aid, people who cannot afford legal representation will be at a disadvantage when facing legal proceedings, which can result in unequal protection under the law. Legal Aid helps to ensure that everyone, regardless of their financial status, has access to legal representation.

John Milligan - Lincoln

John Milligan

John Milligan

Retired Legal Aid of Nebraska Employee

How are you connected to Legal Aid?

I became a staff member of Legal Services of Southeast Nebraska in 1978, and worked as a staff attorney in the Lincoln Office of Legal Aid of Nebraska until 2016. Upon graduation from law school (UN Class of 1977) I wanted to work at Western Nebraska Legal Services in Scottsbluff, but they did not have any openings.  My first job was in the Butte Office of Montana Legal Services, and I returned to Lincoln after a very interesting year.

What brought you to Legal Aid?

Like many law students I did not have much of an idea of what my legal career was going to look like.  The University of Nebraska College of Law’s Civil Clinical Law Program had just begun when I entered law school and I was lucky to become a student in that program.  Having the opportunity to serve as a law clerk in the UN Student Legal Services Office also gave me a great introduction to the legal aid world.  The Clinical Law Programs at UN and Creighton are so important, both for the students who participate and the clients they serve.  I’ve always felt like it’s important to give as many people as possible “access” to the legal system, and that’s the core of what brought me to Legal Aid.

How have you helped Legal Aid create equal justice?

I hope that I was able to provide competent, effective legal representation to thousands of Nebraskans of limited means.  Sharing my experience as a resource for other representatives was always personally rewarding.  Capable legal representation causes the system to recognize and respect the client, and in a sense provides the client with a seat at the table of justice.

What difference have you seen happen because of Legal Aid?

Shortly before I began my career in 1977,  Legal Aid became a nationwide component in the War on Poverty.  Legal Aid did not receive a warm welcome into many of the counties.  Over the years Legal Aid has not only been accepted into the legal community, but has been welcomed as an important part of the overall package of necessary social services.  The availability of legal representation for low-income individuals in a wide range of civil matters has, in my opinion, brought about numerous improvements in the “fairness” of how the system operates.  It certainly isn’t perfect but it is so much better than it used to be.  Generally instead of at times being indifferent to the needs of our clients, the system now seeks out Legal Aid’s opinions and the opinions of our clients.

Why is Legal Aid important?

Legal Aid provides a dependable service that is necessary component of “due process” and what I call system “fairness.”

Jazmin Ross - Grand Island

Jazmin Ross

Jazmin Ross

Legal Aid of Nebraska Paralegal

How are you connected to Legal Aid?

We seek to make equal justice happen. I want every client to receive the assistance they deserve in their situations and to make sure our clients know their rights.

What brought you to Legal Aid?

I came to Legal Aid of Nebraska with little bit of knowledge of what this organization did. I began my journey with Legal Aid in August 2013, within a few months, the managing attorney at the time gave me the opportunity to take on paralegal work, and now here I am almost 10 years later and I absolutely enjoy the work I do and the services Legal Aid provides to our clients.

How have you helped Legal Aid create equal justice?

With the cases we receive and that I am asked to work on, I make sure to provide the best assistance to the attorneys on the case. Whether it is setting appointments, translations/interpretations, meeting with clients, drafting documents, etc. I work hard to make sure we are serving our clients the best we can and providing them with the information necessary for them to succeed.

What difference have you seen happen because of Legal Aid?

I have seen many clients come to us with the smallest bit of hope left when they’re going through their hard times. Nothing makes me feel proud of my job then to see them smiling and being grateful for the help we provided. Getting them the outcome they deserve is very rewarding as it shows us we are making positive changes in their lives and their families lives.

Why is Legal Aid important?

Legal Aid is an important organization to the community as we help those who are in need and have nowhere else to turn to. Our staff is passionate about the work we do and making sure our clients feel seen and heard every step of the way.

Terry Waite - North Platte

Terrance Waite

Terrance Waite

Legal Aid of Nebraska Boardmember

How are you connected to Legal Aid?

I am a member of the Legal Aid of Nebraska Board of Directors.

What brought you to Legal Aid?

To give credit where credit is due, a better response would be “WHO Brought You To Legal Aid.” First was Prof. Peter Hoffman, through his civil clinical program at UNL Law College beginning in May of 1976 when, with Peter’s guidance and zealous advocacy, I obtained a relatively large award of child support for an African American lady. Dorothy and her six children had never received child support. Tracking down and recreating the income for the father of those six children took months. Peter was kind enough to let me stay on and finish the case through the trial.
Further giving credit where due, accepting Judge Piester’s invitation to join him on the Board of Directors years ago was an easy choice.

How have you helped Legal Aid create equal justice?

Seeing the impact that single case had on the lives of Dorothy and her six children inspired me to continue to contribute to Legal Aid by serving on its Board of Directors.

What difference have you seen happen because of Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is the haven of last resort for those confronted by overwhelming legal and other problems. I have seen dedicated Legal Aid attorneys do countless times for all of their clients what I did for that single client nearly a half century ago.

Why is Legal Aid important?

Legal Aid provides a safe haven for the unfortunate. Moreover, it gives lawyers a chance to achieve what many of us joined our profession to accomplish, ie. service to others.
There is an old Chinese Proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
And to also quote Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we do… We make a life by what we give…”

Danny Reynaga - Scottsbluff

Danny Reynaga

Danny Reynaga

Legal Aid of Nebraska Attorney

How are you connected to Legal Aid?

I am an attorney for Legal Aid of Nebraska. I manage our Agricultural Worker Rights Program, as well as one of our regional offices in Scottsbluff.

What brought you to Legal Aid?

I wanted to use my time and talents to help people, and I also wanted to live in western Nebraska. Legal Aid provides me with the opportunity to do both!

How have you helped Legal Aid create equal justice?

I’ve had the privilege of working in different programs, and assisting different types of clients on a variety of legal issues. What has been constant during those experiences is the opportunity to help people who are fighting an uphill battle level the playing field. Representing folks who otherwise would face the court system without an attorney ensures that equal justice is attainable for all.

What difference have you seen happen because of Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is definitely in the business of changing lives! I’ve witnessed families be able to stay in their homes, parents be reunited with their children, crushing financial situations be turned around, and client’s escape abusive relationships and change not only their lives, but their children’s trajectory.

Why is Legal Aid important?

The work that Legal Aid of Nebraska does is critical to the protection of the most vulnerable Nebraskans, and ensures that our justice system is working for all people by keeping courts accountable. Legal Aid stands in the gap for our clients, both in and out of court, and shines bright as a beacon of hope for those who have nowhere else to turn. Our state, and our courts are better because of the work Legal Aid does.

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