J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Partner Up! Tales of How to Maximize Your Chapter's Community Service

October 22-28, 2017 was the American Bar Association's Celebration

Law Society attorney Jennifer
Wilson with applicants
of Pro Bono week. The Law Society challenged each chapter to plan or be involved in some form of service that week, and to report their service project to inspire other chapters. Richard Sheffield, Chair of the Law Society’s Service and Outreach Committee, hoped that chapters would partner with other non-profit organizations rather than starting from scratch to maximize their effectiveness and to avoid reinventing the wheel. At least two chapters did just that.

Joe Geis, immediate past Orange County California Chapter Service Chair, explained that over the last three years, the OC chapter has been involved in a number of community outreach projects with the Orange County Bar Association, including a professional clothing drive for those re-entering the workforce, a toy drive, Friends of the Elderly gathering or purchasing needed items for the elderly, and Fight Hunger Now, which provides meal packages for third-world countries.

According to Geis, the Chapter Service committee and board discussed

Law Society attorney Rick Varner with applicants
the possibility of hosting their own legal clinic, acknowledging the work that would be involved in creating a legal clinic from scratch, such as organizing, planning and training, finding a venue, advertising, as well as malpractice and liability issues. Rather than reinvent the wheel, they thought it would be best to join with another organization that was already doing a clinic. They found out that the Public Law Center (PLC), which is also an affiliate of the OCBA, puts on various clinics, including clinics on bankruptcy, guardianship, domestic violence, and immigration and naturalization, and decided to join with PLC in its immigration and naturalization clinic aka the Citizenship and Naturalization Fair. This Fair is held several times a year, and helps hundreds of immigrants who have been pre-screened as potentially qualifying for citizenship to go through further intensive screening and, if fully qualified, to fill out applications for citizenship.  

The OC Chapter had 27 attorneys volunteer and receive training by the PLC in August at a regular Chapter luncheon, as well as on-line training for non-immigration attorneys. The Citizenship and Naturalization Fair was held in October and hundreds of applicants were seen by OC Chapter lawyers, members of the PLC Staff, as well as other organizations who contributed personnel to the event. The Fair was a great fit because it was already well-organized, well-advertised and attended, provided liability coverage for volunteer attorneys, allowed a large number of attorneys to participate, and created good-will in the community and with other affiliate bar organizations.

Law Society attorney Reid Huefner with applicants
Also in October, the JRCLS Chicago Chapter joined forces with the Immigrant Legal Services (ILS) program at World Relief DuPage/Aurora (WRDA) for its second annual J. Reuben Clark Law Society/World Relief Citizenship Clinic. In preparation for the event, the Chapter raised over $10,000 to make the clinic possible. Tim Kustusch, Partnership Manager at World Relief DuPage/Aurora recounted the event:

“Despite the torrential rains, more than 25 volunteers came out to help 48 people apply to naturalize as U.S. citizens. Applicants emigrated from 17 countries—including places like Burma, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iran, Malawi, Mexico, Sudan, and Vietnam. They ranged in age from 18 to 78 (as well as a 4-year-old who will derive her citizenship as soon as her mother receives hers), and they have called the United States home for an average of 14 years. Two had even been in the U.S. for over 40 years. There were many inspiring stories from the day, including:

-       One former refugee from Southeast Asia was so excited to apply that he arrived at 6:30 am (for a 9 am clinic), and he was disappointed that he wasn’t first in line.
-       One young African man had worked the night shift as a caregiver and had come to the clinic without sleeping, because he didn’t want to miss it.
-       One young refugee woman had just turned 18 and was the first in her family to apply for citizenship. She is studying at a local community college to become a nurse.
-       Three generations of a family from Eastern Europe (grandmother, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter) were all applying for citizenship together.
-       Lastly, one applicant decided he wanted to change his legal name to a more American-sounding name (which you can do when you naturalize as a citizen), and as he was debating what name to choose, he looked at the nametag of the volunteer who was helping him and said, “I like your name. I think I’ll choose the same one.”

In the weeks leading up to the clinic, Sarah Flagel, WRDA’s Legal Supervisor,

Law Society attorney Julie Hammond with applicant
provided a training on immigration law and the naturalization application process to JRCLS attorneys, who received CLE credits for their participation. Much of the coordination of JRCLS’s volunteers and donations was handled by Chicago chapter member Rebecca Van Uitert, who has been partnering with World Relief for several years in her role as pro bono attorney coordinator at the Chicago office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen, & Loewy.

Kustusch expressed gratitude to the JRCLS Chicago chapter, stating: “You have played a critical role at a pivotal juncture in these people’s lives as they seek to gain all the rights and responsibilities of being full citizens.”

To see other examples the Law Society’s service around the world, click here (http://www.jrcls.org/?folder=pro_bono&page=experiences).

By Julie Smith, Media Committee


Posted: November 29, 2017