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Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program - Housing


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Posted: November 30, 2016

By: Rina Lieberman, Esq.

“The Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program (VLFD) is both a crucial source of legal assistance to vulnerable New Yorkers and a terrific opportunity for attorneys, recent law graduates, as well as law students to develop and to apply a variety of legal practice skills while making an immediate difference in the lives of others. With brief time commitment of even a few hours in the VLFD housing court program on a flexible basis, volunteers can make a big difference in the lives of others by helping to resolve clients’ cases, and ultimately, allowing financially needy individuals to stay in their homes and to maintain more affordable, rent-stabilized housing, and often with improved living conditions. Without the assistance of VLFD volunteers, many individuals would be at risk of losing their cases—and their housing along with the attendant consequences.

Volunteers begin the VLFD program by attending an orientation on the laws and procedures governing Housing Court across New York City—which offers CLE credits. As their schedules permit, volunteers can then jump right in and handle cases in the Resolution Part of Housing court in different boroughs. While VLFD volunteers are free to handle cases independently with limited supervision, the guidance and assistance of the VLFD supervising attorneys and of experienced volunteers are always available to those who need it as cases can vary in complexity. Volunteers read client files and assess their cases, engage in client counseling, negotiate with opposing counsel, and appear before judges. There are also opportunities for VLFD volunteers to go on and represent tenants in hearings in certain cases.

Being a VLFD volunteer has been a very rewarding experience that has allowed me to enhance a variety of legal and professional skills. Whether you’re a new or a veteran attorney, and whether you’re a full-time litigator or work in transactional or other area of law, I highly recommend becoming a VLFD program volunteer for even just a few days a year. The experience and personal satisfaction will serve you well.”


Posted: November 30, 2016

By: Crystal Jackson, Esq.

“Housing Court is a stressful place for many Brooklyn tenants who find themselves within its confines. Unaware of legal process, a court appearance can be a frightening circumstance for the average person. Working with the Volunteer Lawyer For the Day program, I found immense joy in representing and guiding tenants through the process. Although the program provides limited scope representation, I learned how to maximize the short period of time I spent with clients. The program taught me how to explore financial assistance options for clients, as well as referrals to other legal groups.

With New York City in a housing crisis, the VLFD program is an amazing opportunity to advocate for the people in our community and keep families in their homes. I hope more attorneys see the importance of participating.”


Posted: October 1, 2015

By: Evelyn K. Lin, Esq.

"The Volunteer Lawyer for the Day program (VLFD) provides limited scope representation to qualified rent-stabilized tenants in Housing Court who face eviction. Through VLFD, lawyers can experience Housing Court in different boroughs, receive practical free CLE trainings and receive stellar mentorship in a supportive work environment.

As a volunteer in the VLFD program, I have been immersed in the practice of Landlord Tenant Law. My experience in NYC Housing Court has sharpened my counseling and litigation skills and have made me a much more effective attorney. I have been able to empower my clients with the knowledge of the law, help them access valuable resources and develop practical strategies to meet their individual needs. The VLFD program helps attorneys develop important lawyering skills such as effectively arguing their positions before a Judge, developing effective negotiation skills and managing multiple clients in a high pressure setting. These are all career development skills that will help an attorney in any area of law.

I am thankful for the mentoring the VLFD supervising attorneys have provided me. Their knowledge and practical advice; their feedback and encouragement are the heart of the program. At times there are difficult cases where eviction cannot be prevented. I wondered how do we move forward without the stress taking its toll? On good days we celebrate the success. On the not so good days we rally "to fight the good fight another day" one supervising attorney told me.

VLFD volunteers also have access to the outstanding support of the Access to Justice Program. They provide free CLEs from housing experts in private, government and public interest agencies. Topics such as NYCHA proceedings, Article 78 hearings, legal issues surrounding Rent Stabilization, nuisance holdovers and Traverse hearings are the sort of practical issues that have been covered.

I highly recommend the VLFD Housing Program as way for lawyers to give back to their community while at the same time gaining valuable career and practice skills in NYC's Landlord Tenant Court."


Posted: October 1, 2015

By: Edward Acton, Esq.

"For the past few months I have been working with the VLFD Program at the Brooklyn Housing Court. In nearly four decades as a lawyer I have never had such an amazing experience. VLFD works with clients who are in serious need of legal representation to retain their homes. The chance to work with litigants where our work as lawyers is important on a daily basis is heartening beyond belief. As homelessness grows in the city, it is a privilege to work with like-minded attorneys to help provide a safety net for our clients to make sure they have a place to live. I urge all lawyers to consider working with VLFD. The VLFD training has been thorough, and the supervision thoughtful and instructive. You will also benefit from working with outstanding lawyers who will become colleagues and friends. And using an old saw but an apt one: you will truly have a chance to make a difference."


Posted: October 16, 2014

By: Eugene Chen, Esq.

"Housing Court is one of the most intimidating places in New York City. For tenants facing the loss of their homes, there is a lot at stake. Losing a job can mean the loss of one's home, and losing one's home can mean not being able to find a job if an employer wants an address and credit check—perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In New York City, where housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable, many people are one paycheck away from becoming homeless. Unrepresented tenants are often not fully aware of their rights and defenses in Housing Court, but the VLFD program helps tenants keep their homes in the most trying moments of their lives by providing ongoing legal representation and advice where they otherwise would not be able to afford it. Every attorney should give back to their community by volunteering their services in the VLFD program."


Posted: November 20, 2013

By: Jill Lashley Greenbaum, Esq.

"VLFD Housing helps families who are facing financial hardship, many of whom are in danger of losing their homes. In addition to running a youth safety network, as a pro bono attorney with VLFD Housing I represented a number of parents, which enabled me to help our youth in another way, by supporting THEIR support system, their parents. Providing the much needed legal assistance through VLFD Housing is a rewarding experience that often requires counsel to support clients emotionally, as well. I hope that my volunteer service with VLFD helped parents increase their resolve, capabilities and willingness in supporting their children and others. VLFD and programs like it are based on the belief that good will and volunteerism are contagious, so spread the word!"


Posted: October 23, 2013

By: Amir Rasoulpour, Esq.

"The VLFD program provides an important opportunity to represent individuals in a court where unrepresented respondents are the overwhelming norm. In the course of one day of volunteering, you will provide clients invaluable information and clarification about tenant rights, give confidence to clients to assert these rights, support clients in realistically considering how they can pay any arrears, and ultimately negotiate stipulations with opposing counsel that are reasonable, just, and clear. For a tenant navigating unrepresented, one's impulse is often to take the quickest offer which can lead to defaults, overcharges, and other waivers of potential rights. As a volunteer lawyer, you serve an important role in slowing down the bargaining process, thoroughly raising any and all defenses, and being a needed support to your client throughout a stressful experience where one's home is on the line. Your efforts directly benefit your client by producing better legal outcomes which indirectly help all New Yorkers by preserving the dwindling regulated housing stock of the city. Participating in the program challenges any attorney to use their legal knowledge, negotiation techniques, and interpersonal skills. The program orientation is very thorough and the supervising attorney of the program is extremely supportive in mentoring you throughout the process. I've learned so much from taking part in the VLFD program and hope that it expands to provide even more tenants access to representation."


Posted: April 23, 2013

By: Robert Peters, Esq.

"My journey to the VLFDHousing program began long ago – in 1975-1976 to be exact, when I spent a full year following graduation from law school representing tenants in nonpayment proceedings in the Manhattan Housing Court. I enjoyed working in the housing court back then, and to this day I am thankful for the experience. I am now in the midst of a later-in-life career transition – from working more than 27 years as an attorney and executive for a nonprofit organization that fights pornography to an attorney in private practice.

One area of law that I was interested in from day one of this transition was landlord-tenant law, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I was delighted to discover that the NYC Housing Courts appoint their own Guardians Ad Litem. This, I thought, is for me! But having spent most of my professional life working as an in-house attorney who didn't represent clients in court, I knew I would again need to become comfortable working in the Housing Courts if I were to become a capable GAL. I was therefore delighted to discover a program that would allow me to represent tenants on a pro bono basis. This, I thought, is what I need; and it was.

As I write this testimony, I have been serving as a Volunteer Lawyer for the Day for going on six months; and I am happy to report that when I recently received my first appointment as a Housing Court GAL I had no trepidation about speaking to a landlord attorney or about standing before a Housing Court judge. And when I sat down to look through the court file, it was a breeze.

I have taken a number of CLE courses relating to landlord-tenant law and guardianship law (both GAL and Article 81), and I intend to take more because there is a place for "book learning." But there is also a place for "doing the work," and the VLFDHousing program is a great way to be a doer of the work if a person wants to be a Housing Court GAL.

I would add that at this point in my life my goal is to earn a modest income while doing good in the process. I don't anticipate that serving as a Housing Court GAL will meet the full need for even a modest income, but if I fulfill my responsibilities as a GAL, I can do good."


Posted: December 22, 2011

By: Johannes Wetzel, Esq.

"Through the Volunteer Lawyer for the Day program I have represented a number of individuals in different Housing Courts throughout the city. I think the best thing about the program is that I get to practice a range of skills. The clients represent a variety of backgrounds and most have little knowledge of legal processes. Through my representation, I am able to practice client contact in the most fundamental way by explaining what is happening, what to expect, and the risks and rewards of any strategy.

Just as varied as the clients are the opposing attorneys with whom I negotiate extensively for every client. The nature of the cases the VLFD Program handles demands that I try to think of creative solutions to client problems, and that I try to make the best of some clients' difficult circumstances. Every case requires a slightly different approach, and this variety of experience has taught me a great deal about negotiation and litigation strategy.

Finally, through the program I have learned a tremendous amount about both Housing Court law and procedure, and about the rules and administration of public assistance programs in New York.

The program has greatly increased my confidence with clients, with opposing counsel, and in the courtroom."


Posted: December 15, 2011

By: Donna Hopkins, Esq.

“The VLFD program is a great opportunity for attorneys to serve those citizens of New York who are most in need of legal advice at a time when they can least afford it. The program allows me to contribute my legal skills in a way that can make a significant difference to someone’s life. My fellow attorneys on the program are always on hand for advice on any legal or practical issues if needed. There's a great support system for attorneys new to the program. If you want to contribute something useful to New Yorkers, this is a wonderful thing to do - I thoroughly recommend it.”


Posted: December 9, 2011

By: Bikram Singh, Esq.

"I’ve learned so much from volunteering at the VLFD program. The experience that I’ve gained is invaluable. I’ve learned to deal with a wide variety of issues at a time, manage client’s expectations, draft stipulations, deal with opposing counsel and present my case in front of the Judge. There is a great feeling of satisfaction when you have assisted an individual prevent their eviction. I am also working with a great group of people who share the same sentiment as me. I think every attorney new or experienced should volunteer at the VLFD program."