New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

CONTACT:Barbara S. Straczynski
Communications and Marketing Manager

NJSBA Acknowledges Pro Bono Work of Seth Ptasiewicz with Annual Award

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ— Seth Ptasiewicz, a Manalapan resident and attorney with Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP in Newark, received the Pro Bono Award of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) on May 19 at the organization’s annual meeting in Atlantic City. The NJSBA annual Pro Bono Award is presented to an association member who has performed exemplary pro bono services during the preceding year.

Nominated by Essex County Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ), Ptasiewicz has been volunteering with the program since 2002, and according to Karen Sacks of VLJ, “much of the program’s success can be attributed to Mr. Ptasiewicz personally.”

Since 2002, Ptasiewicz has devoted approximately 340 hours handling divorce litigation matters at VLJ. He attended VLJ sponsored family law and domestic violence seminars and is the only non-family law attorney handling complex matrimonial matters on behalf of VLJ.

Ptasiewicz’ last case, which spanned twenty months from commencement to resolution, involved a divorce including allegations of emotional and physical abuse by the spouse toward the client and emotional and sexual abuse of their two young children. Despite the fact that the woman’s spouse had obtained an attorney expert in family law, Ptasiewicz secured a divorce, child support and alimony for his client and more importantly, the client’s spouse is no longer allowed visitation with his daughter and is allowed only supervised visitation with his son. VLJ’s client was overwhelmed with the outcome.

“I remember the day I met him,” she wrote in a thank you letter to VLJ and Ptasiewicz. “I was so nervous and scared that he would take one look at my case and head the other way, but he didn’t. I had every kind of problem imaginable, bankruptcy filed by my husband, a messed up credit, a house that had been foreclosed. My ex had many different aliases and it was just so complicated and I needed so much from him. I never knew that my freedom was here.”

In addition to VLJ clients, Ptasiewicz regularly attends recruitment functions at law firms on behalf of VLJ and advocates for the program everywhere he can. He is responsible for countless numbers of lawyers signing up for pro bono opportunities through VLJ and elsewhere.

“At least 12 volunteers have indicated that Mr. Ptasiewicz is directly responsible for their involvement in the program,” Sacks said.

VLJ bestowed its first ever “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year” award to Ptasiewicz at its now yearly recognition ceremony at the Newark Club. When Ptasiewicz was searching for a new employment position, he first asked potential employers whether they would support his overriding commitment to pro bono work and he accepted the position at Wilson, Elser based on the firm’s affirmative response. In 2004, the Board of the Legal Services Foundation of Essex County elected Ptasiewicz to the VLJ Board for the 2004-2005 term due to his dedication to the legal needs of the poor.

In addition to his work for VLJ, Ptasiewicz serves as secretary to the District VB Ethics Committee and has volunteered approximately 75 hours per year in that capacity since November 2001.

Ptasiewicz received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri.

The NJSBA Pro Bono Committee uses the following criteria for the annual NJSBA Pro Bono Award: (1) the total number of pro bono hours spent or complexity of cases handled by the nominee; (2) the impact of the nominee’s pro bono work and/or benefit for the poor; (3) particular expertise provided or particular need satisfied by the nominee; (4) successful recruitment by the nominee of other attorneys for pro bono representation; or (5) proven commitment by the nominee to the delivery of quality legal services to the poor and providing equal access to legal services.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice.