NJSBA Pro Bono Award
4th Annual Pro Bono Conference June 8, 2011
NJSBA Honors Pro Bono Attorneys
A lawyer who helped victims of political persecution and Guantanamo Bay detainees, and a drug company that performed legal services for homeless shelters, childcare centers and literacy programs are this year’s winners of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Awards.
John Hargrave, a South Jersey attorney, today will receive the individual award at a presentation today at the Fourth Annual Pro Bono Conference.
Roseland-based Lowenstein Sandler, PC will also receive an award for excellence by an organization at the same event. The conference runs from 8:30 a.m, to 2:30 p.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.
Bar Association President Susan A. Feeney praised the winners, calling their pro bono work exemplary.
“As lawyers, we have a special tool – a law degree – that enables us to give back to the community. That is our privilege and obligation. Through their volunteer efforts, Lowenstein Sandler PC and John Hargrave have helped improve the lives of countless people,” she said.
A CULTURE OF SERVICE
The selection of Lowenstein Sandler for recognition award follows the firm’s decision to create the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest to expand upon its community and volunteer legal work.
Over the past year, the firm started a partnership with Living Cities, a nonprofit devoted to urban revitalization. Attorneys helped establish a framework that will allow the organization to make $85 million in grants and loans to local nonprofits in cities around the country.
On the litigation front, firm attorneys represented people seeking help with immigration, domestic violence and military benefits. The firm also sought broader impact through amicus work and other cases; including helping convince the New Jersey Supreme Court to establish visitation rights for siblings in foster care.
During 2010, each of the firm’s attorneys spent an average of 97 hours on pro bono matters for a total of 23,682 hours during the year. They helped 187 clients.
Keri Logosso-Misurell, president of New Jersey Children’s Alliance (NJCA), said the firm’s commitment to children is inspiring. Pro bono attorneys from the firm helped the alliance create bylaws and become tax-exempt, making it eligible for grants.
“Their pro bono work directly created the corporate structure needed for NJCA to receive and disburse funds which benefit abused children and families throughout New Jersey,” she wrote in a letter nominating the firm for the award.
SERVING CLIENTS, STUDENTS
Barrington attorney John Hargrave embodies the pro bono ethic.
In his 16 years as leader of the Rutgers School of Law – Camden Pro Bono Bankruptcy Project, Hargrave has represented over 100 clients seeking Chapter 7 help. The project is a joint effort with South Jersey Legal Services.
“The nature and sincerity of John’s commitment are even more impressive. He devotes his time to guiding clients through the bankruptcy process, while at the same time sharing with law students his expertise in client interviewing and bankruptcy,” wrote Pam Merstock-Wolfe, assistant director of Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs at the law school.
In addition to his work with bankruptcy clients, he is also a founder of a financial literacy project that helps people learn about their responsibilities and risks related to credit, as well as personal finance and bills.
Hargrave said he enjoys helping people and teaching students. The pro bono cases help keep him grounded, he added.
3rd Annual Pro Bono Conference May 6, 2010
Attorneys Honored at Pro Bono Conference
From therapy dogs to an affordable housing organization, John G. Webb III has provided free legal advice to charities and nonprofit organizations that wouldn't have been able to afford a lawyer.
And patent attorney John Todaro was a key organizer of a clinic at Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, which has helped nearly three dozen people navigate the complicated legal maze of bankruptcy.
Todaro and Webb are this year's winners of the New Jersey State Bar Association's highest award recognizing attorneys who volunteer their time, the Pro Bono Award. They join an impressive list of people and companies the association's Pro Bono Committee has honored each year since 2003 for their service in the legal community.
The awards will be presented Thursday at the association's Third Annual Pro Bono Conference. It will be held at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.
"This is a real opportunity to recognize those who so generously donate their time by providing pro bono legal services in our community. Now more than ever, there is a tremendous need for free legal assistance, and this year's award recipients are a tremendous example of what can be accomplished through volunteerism and good will," said Karen Sacks, a co-vice chair of the association's committee.
Added Maurice McLaughlin, chair of the committee: "Every lawyer, regardless of where they practice, can make a difference, and we want to encourage and recognize them."
A Go-To Volunteer
Webb, of Budd Lake's JGW, INcounsel, began working with Pro Bono Partnership four years ago. The group helps connect nonprofits and charities that need transactional legal work with lawyers willing to do it for free.
Since then the former general counsel of J. M. Huber Corp. in Edison has become a go-to volunteer on a spectrum of corporate and transaction issues from corporate name changes to reviewing bylaws to real estate rental agreements to mergers, said Nancy Eberhardt, director of the partnership program. Webb has handled 13 pro bono cases, including six since last May.
For Therapy Dogs International, a group that arranges for dogs and their handlers to visit institutions and facilities, Webb helped it create a corporate structure to work with affiliate chapters around the country.
Webb's dedication to the group's mission and his legal advice made a tremendous difference, said Ursula Kempe, its chief executive officer.
"John's expertise in dealing with complex corporate issues has prepared our nonprofit to move forward with programmatic improvements, and resulted in a stronger organization," said Kempe.
Webb also created a series of informational and organizational documents for Middle Earth, which provides intervention and assistance to at-risk kids.
He "took the time to understand and then create a document easily understood and easy to communicate," said Dan Puntillo, the group's executive director.
To Webb, volunteering is just something that is part of being a lawyer. He said winning the award was humbling, adding he hopes it will remind other lawyers that everyone can contribute.
"One of the reasons I am a lawyer is to help other people. From the beginning of my practice I have tried to find opportunities where I could help people who are less fortunate… My belief and observation is that service to the public is just a part of the professional responsibility we all have," said Webb.
In these tough economic times, legal services from volunteer attorneys is even more critical to nonprofits that are struggling to maintain their endowments or facing funding cuts in the face of an increased demand for services from a hard-hit population, said Eberhardt.
"Virtually every decision these agencies might undertake to reduce costs while preserving services has important legal implications and requires expert legal advice to avoid pitfalls that may further weaken the organization," she said. "Lawyers like John give these agencies the legal advice they badly need, helping them strengthen their programs and preserve the social safety net at a time when our citizens need it most."
Navigating the Bankruptcy Maze
Todaro first got involved with the Newark-based Volunteer Lawyers for Justice in 2005, when he took part in a seminar on special education issues and agreed to handle a case.
A year later Todaro, managing counsel in Merck & Co.'s intellectual property group, took on a bankruptcy matter in an effort to help the tide of people who sought assistance following changes to the bankruptcy law in 2005, which made it more complicated to get help through the courts.
"Pro bono consumer bankruptcy work provides a window onto the difficult economic circumstances encountered by the less fortunate in society. This is something I rarely see in my corporate practice," said Todaro.
For the next few years, he continued to handle a few bankruptcy matters, but quickly realized a larger effort was needed. He mobilized a group of his co-workers, and in July 2009 held a clinic where poor residents could get free assistance with the preparation and filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions.
Since that initial event, a troop of Merck attorneys and professionals has staffed a regular clinic that has led 10 people through the bankruptcy process.
Todaro is a "tireless and continuous" volunteer, said Jordyn Baumgarten, a director of pro bono services for the volunteer lawyers group.
"By helping these individuals begin a new financial future, the VLJ/Merck bankruptcy clinic, which was largely born out of John's commitment to serving those underserved, has helped stabilize not just individuals, but their families and the community as a whole."
To the Merck attorney, the recognition by his peers is humbling and inspiring.
"Pro bono legal work gives me a chance to use my legal skills and experience to help … (It) has exposed me to people and legal issues that I will remember years from now. It is also fulfilling to work with lawyers and staff working for the various legal aid groups and organizations in New Jersey," he said.
Annual Meeting 2009
Wyeth, Newark Attorney Honored for Pro Bono Legal Activities
A lawyer who helped victims of political persecution and Guantanamo Bay detainees, and a drug company that performed legal services for homeless shelters, childcare centers and literacy programs are this year’s winners of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Awards.
McCarter and English partner Arnold Natali received the individual award at a presentation at this year’s Annual Meeting and Convention in Atlantic City last month. Madison-based Wyeth accepted this year’s award for excellence by an organization at the same event.
Bar Association President Allen Etish praised the winners, calling their pro bono work exemplary.
“As lawyers, we have a special obligation to give back to the community. Through their volunteer efforts, Arnold Natali and Wyeth have helped improve the lives of countless people,” he said.
Helping Asylum Seekers
Arnold Natali has handled over a dozen cases on behalf of asylum seekers, ranging from victims of torture in Somalia to the political persecution of a Rwandan who watched government forces murder most of his immediate family. Most recently, he was lead counsel for three citizens of Saudi Arabia detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. His clients were eventually released from American custody and repatriated to Saudi Arabia.
“He has been a guiding light in advancing the pro bono efforts at McCarter and English for the past 15 years,” said State Bar Immediate Past President Peggy Sheahan Knee, who presented the awards. “He has dedicated hundreds of hours to helping impoverished and disenfranchised immigrants who seek political asylum in the United States after facing political and religious persecution and physical torture.”
In addition to his efforts on behalf of asylum seekers, Natali has served as chair of the pro bono committee at his law firm since 2005. In that role, he has supervised over 300 pro bono cases and the firm’s pro bono hours increased from 7,000 to 13,000.
A Drug Company Gives Back
After a successful venture with a legal services agency, Wyeth decided about a year ago to further expand its pro bono efforts. To do that, the company went to work with the organization Pro Bono Partnership to provide free corporate and transactional to public charities.
In the past year, 14 of the company’s attorneys and legal staff have handled 19 pro bono matters addressing everything from trademark filings and assistance with environmental investigations. The work benefitted homeless shelters, services for foster children and families and nonprofits providing entrepreneurial training to people in low-income areas.
“The response by Wyeth’s law department was quick and extensive,” said Knee when she presented the award. “None of these groups was able to afford to pay for legal services without significantly decreasing resources for their programs. And in some cases, they would not have been able to afford legal help at all.”
One group that benefitted from the company’s volunteer efforts was The Prostate Net, which seeks to increase awareness of prostate cancer among low-income communities and men of color.
“I cannot begin to place a value on the work (they did)… It positioned us as a stronger, more credible organization,” said Virgil Simons, founder and president of the prostate-education company.
The New Jersey State Bar Association is the state’s largest lawyers group. It was founded in 1899 and today remains dedicated to improving the legal system and promoting the fair administration of justice.
Annual Meeting 2008
James Katz, a partner with the Cherry Hill law firm of Spear Wilderman Borish Endy Spear & Runckel PC, received the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Annual Pro Bono Award at the Association’s Annual Meeting and Convention in Atlantic City on May 21. The NJSBA annual Pro Bono award is presented to an association member who performs exemplary pro bono services during the preceding year.
An NJSBA member since 1982, Mr. Katz’s practice focuses on union-side labor law. He has represented a wide array of public and private sector labor organizations in New Jersey. Nominated for the award for his work on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ), Mr. Katz has served as a volunteer attorney on several significant civil liberties cases over the past two decades.
Most recently, Mr. Katz successfully argued for plaintiffs on behalf of ACLU-NJ in a case involving a town ordinance that sought to ban undocumented immigrants from renting, residing, using property or being employed in Riverside. According to Jeanne LoCicero, Staff Attorney for ACLU-NJ, who nominated Mr. Katz for the award, “the work that Mr. Katz did on behalf of the plaintiffs in Riverside has had an impact not only on those individuals, but on communities throughout New Jersey and the Nation.”
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. Visit the Association’s website at www.nsjba.com.
The Princeton office of Dechert LLP received a Special Recognition Pro Bono Award from the New Jersey State Bar Association for its exemplary pro bono services. Matthew DelDuca, Esq. accepted the award on behalf of the firm at the NJSBA’s Annual Meeting and Convention in Atlantic City on May 21.
Dechert LLP is an international law firm with offices in 17 cities and has approximately 1100 lawyers. The Princeton office, opened in 1987, currently consists of 31 attorneys who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to providing pro bono services to those in need. In 2007, Dechert Princeton lawyers billed over 2400 pro bono hours, representing 4.4% of its total billable hours. Every full-time lawyer in the Princeton office participated in the pro bono program.
Dechert Princeton is a member of the U.S. District Court Pro Bono Panel and was the recipient of the Court’s annual Pro Bono Award in 2007. The firm was nominated for its long-standing commitment to pro bono cases, highlighted by its representation of plaintiffs in the Jackson case. Jackson involved allegations of racial profiling by New Jersey state troopers. Dechert Princeton is also representing a group of six minority-owned casino bus tour companies in litigation involving claims that they have been subjected to racial profiling by state inspectors working for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s Commercial Bus Division. Dechert Princeton lawyers have also been asked by the District Court to handle prisoner lawsuits alleging mistreatment by prison guards.
Since September, 2003, Dechert Princeton has sponsored and maintained a pro bono program with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (“TASK”), aimed at bringing quality legal services to patrons of the soup kitchen who are in need of legal representation.
Dechert Princeton is also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) Cooperating Attorney Program. In 2007, they represented the ACLU as Amicus Curiae before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Mason v. The City of Hoboken, a case that involved the public’s right of access to government records under the Open Public Records Act.
Dechert Princeton lawyers are also working with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
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. Visit the Association’s website at www.njsba.com.
Annual Meeting 2007
Daniel J. Yablonsky of Yablonsky & Associates LLC in Wayne and resident of North Haledon received the New Jersey State Bar Association's Annual Pro Bono Award at the Association's Annual Meeting in Atlantic City on May 16.
The NJSBA annual Pro Bono Award is presented to an association member who performed exemplary pro bono services during the preceding year.
An NJSBA member since 1987, Mr. Yablonsky's practice focuses on bankruptcy and insolvency in state and federal court. He is a longtime volunteer with Northeast New Jersey Legal Services, providing over 270 hours of service in the area of bankruptcy law to the organization's clients in the past three years. He has also recruited additional volunteer practitioners, and served on the board of directors.
Mr. Yablonsky is a Chapter 7 Panel trustee, a trustee of the Passaic County Bar Association and chair of that association's debtor/creditor section. In addition, he is a board member of the Northeast New Jersey Legal Services Organization and Cornelean Community Counselors. He is also a member of the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, the American Bankruptcy Institute, and a past national delegate and past vice-president of the Federal Bar Association-New Jersey Chapter.
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) received a Special Recognition Pro Bono Award from the New Jersey State Bar Association for its exemplary pro bono services. VLJ Executive Director Karen Sacks accepted the award on behalf of the organization at the NJSBA's Annual Meeting in Atlantic City on May 16.
A program of the Legal Services Foundation of Essex County, VLJ officially opened its doors in 2001 with thirty volunteer attorneys willing to assist indigent Essex County residents with family, consumer, housing and family law issues. Today, its volunteer base of over 750 attorneys provides services to thousands of clients statewide with any civil legal issue.
VLJ operates several distinct legal projects including: legal seminars on family law, pro se divorce and family motions clinics, wills, bankruptcy, special education and guardianship programs, and its most recent program created in partnership with Newark Mayor Cory Booker's administration, Seton Hall and Rutgers Law Schools, the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice and others, called the Newark Reentry Legal Services Network (ReLeSe), a program to help ex offenders with legal issues that serve as barriers to successful reentry.
Annual Meeting 2006
Shereen Chen, a native of Taipei, Taiwan and attorney with Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP in Voorhees, received the Pro Bono Award of the NJSBA on May 18 at the organization's annual meeting. 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 Dean Waldt, a fellow Pro Bono Committee member, Chen has made a significant impact on the law community. According to Waldt, "Shereen's assistance and participation in Ballard's immigration, pro bono success stories, not only for 2005, but also for the past 10 years, shows her commitment to the delivery of quality legal services to the poor and providing equal access to superior legal services that they otherwise would not be able to afford."
During her time at Ballard Spahr, Chen has averaged more than 100 hours of pro bono time each year to working on immigration law. In addition, Chen also serves as a mentor for other attorneys on asylum and immigration matters.
One of Chen's most recent cases involved successfully obtaining "extraordinary worker" status for a young woman from Nigeria who is researching the effect of AIDS and HIV issues on children. As a result, this woman is now on her way to becoming a permanent resident of the United States.
Another notable case for Chen involved leading a team that assisted a Chinese girl who fled from an abusive father to the United States. Smuggled into the country by Chinese gangsters known as snakeheads, she was imprisoned by the group and later escaped. Chen and her team successfully obtained special immigrant juvenile status for her. This special status was also won for several young men who were orphaned refugees from Sudan as a result of Chen's efforts.
In addition to her various pro bono initiatives, Chen has also collaborated with Ballard Spahr to create an immigration pro bono services practice group, which assists several community-based organizations. She also participated on an American Bar Association-sponsored team that inspected an immigration detention center and reported their findings to federal immigration authorities.
As an attorney at Ballard Spahr, Chen concentrates her practice on labor employment and immigration; litigation; and franchise and distribution. Chen received her Bachelor of Arts from Johns Hopkins in 1993. She went on to obtain her J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, NJ in 1996.
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 NJSBA presented a Special Recognition Pro Bono Award to the law firm of McCarter & English at the NJSBA Annual Meeting. The NJSBA established the Pro Bono Awards in 2002 to be given at the Annual Meeting in recognition of outstanding pro bono efforts.
McCarter & English is being recognized for their speedy efforts in the formation and distribution of handbooks in collaboration with the NJSBA for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. They have also provided many hours to negotiations with the New Brunswick Tax assessor about various agreements made with the New Jersey Law Center.
Over the years, McCarter & English have provided assistance for many different types of cases ranging from Fortune 100 companies to individual people. They are a nationally based firm that has been in business for over 160 years.
Annual Meeting 2005
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 New Jersey State Bar Association presented a Special Recognition Pro Bono Award to the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice (CCLSJ) on May 19 at the NJSBA Annual Meeting in Atlantic City. The NJSBA established the Pro Bono Awards in 2002 to be given at the Annual Meeting in recognition of outstanding pro bono efforts.
The Camden Center for Law and Social Justice is a faith based non-profit public interest law center founded in the late 1980s to promote justice to the poor and marginalized in the City of Camden and throughout southern New Jersey. The Center recently celebrated its 10th anniversary of incorporation in December 2004.
Over the years, CCLSJ has helped thousands of people in the immigrant community and the working poor by providing pro bono or low cost legal services. The Center handles immigration matters primarily and to a lesser extent various civil matters. The Center has also recently begun representing victims of domestic violence in Final Restraining Order Hearings.
Annual Meeting 2004
Thomas J. Welchman, a Somerset resident and attorney with a solo practice in Somerville, received the Pro Bono Award of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) at the organization's recent 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.
The list of organizations where he volunteers, the testimony of his peers and the commitment shown by his countless hours devoted to legal services work provide only a glimpse into the unwavering efforts of Thomas Welchman on behalf of Legal Services.
"Tom is a shining example of the pro bono spirit," wrote Diane K. Smith, executive director for Legal Services of North West Jersey (LSNWJ) in her letter to the Somerset County Bar Association recommending Welchman for the award. "His efforts have made an astonishing difference in the justice system in our service area and have gone a long way in making the goal of equal justice a reality in our community."
A former president of the board of directors for Somerset-Sussex Legal Services for more than fifteen years, Welchman now serves as treasurer for LSNWJ, an organization created in 2002 resulting from the merger of Somerset-Sussex Legal Services and three other legal services providers. Welchman served on the Steering committee that guided the merger.
Welchman is a vice president of the Resource Center for Women and their Families in Somerset County, and for over 10 years, has been a volunteer attorney with the resource center's Pro Bono Legal Clinic, offering 30-minute consultations for victims of domestic violence. In addition, as clinic coordinator, he works to recruit additional volunteer attorneys, and reaches out to LSNWJ, Legal Services of New Jersey and the ACLU to develop better coordination of pro bono legal services within the county.
In a letter to the Somerset County Bar Association on Welchman's nomination, resource center Executive Director Cathy L. Cummings also noted that he makes himself available on short notice to represent domestic violence victims.
Welchman's awareness of the particular concerns and difficulties faced by domestic violence victims "benefits the broader community as these victims are better able to move towards safety and less in need of emergency law enforcement and medical services," she wrote.
Gwendoline M. Walding, president of the board of trustees for the Resource Center for Women and Their Families wrote in her letter recommending Welchman for the NJSBA Pro Bono Award, "His many years of service have benefited so many of our clients and his great perspective has helped move the agency along so that it now stands as a leading agency in the county for domestic violence."
Welchman is also a former member of the board of directors and attorney for the Franklin Township Food Bank, and a cooperating attorney for the Somerset ACLU Legal Clinic.
At the Annual Meeting 2004 Opening Business Session on May 20, the NJSBA presented a Special Recognition Pro Bono Award to the Legal Department of Merck Co., Inc. for its ten-year commitment to Legal Services.
The Legal Department of Merck & Company was recognized with a special recognition award from the NJSBA in honor of the 10th anniversary of its partnership with Legal Services of New Jersey to provide pro bono services to New Jersey's low-income families.
Merck staff attorneys handle a myriad of legal services matters, including landlord/tenant, guardianship, family law, bankruptcy and domestic violence matters.
Merck's Rahway-based attorneys have handled nearly 150 pro bono cases, while Merck's attorneys located in Whitehouse Station have contributed in excess of 2,000 pro bono hours assisting the poor, according to Kristi L. Vaiden, president-elect of the New Jersey Corporate Counsel Association. Beginning in 1996, Merck attorneys based in Upper Gwynedd assumed a leadership role in providing intake support to a walk-in clinic advising pro bono clients in legal matters.
In her letter recommending the Merck Legal Department for the award, Vaiden wrote that Merck facilities in Rahway and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey and Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania are providing pro bono legal services through alliances with Legal Services of New Jersey, Central Jersey Legal Services, Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, Montgomery County Legal Aid Services and the Pro Bono Partnership.
Annual Meeting 2003
Gary K. Norgaard, a Leonia resident and attorney with the Englewood law firm of Stern, Lavinthal, Frankenberg & Norgaard, LLC, received the Pro Bono Award of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) at the organization's recent annual meeting in Atlantic City.
Norgaard is the first recipient of this prestigious NJSBA award that recognizes an association member who has performed exemplary pro bono services during the preceding year.
Norgaard was a volunteer on the NJSBA Bankruptcy Law Section's Pro Bono Bankruptcy Panel, which matches attorneys with Legal Services' eligible clients on a pro bono basis to assist in the filing of bankruptcy petitions. This effort permits low-income persons unable to afford to hire a private attorney, to receive relief from the debt burden. Norgaard eventually assumed full responsibility for administration of the panel, in addition to his voluntary representation commitment.
Since assuming administration, Norgaard has been instrumental in generating excitement and interest in the panel and has successfully recruited additional attorneys to join, resulting in approximately 100 attorneys volunteering their services. He also spearheaded the establishment of a pilot program at Rutgers Law School whereby students, supervised by attorneys, represent low-income clients in bankruptcy cases.
Under Norgaard's leadership, the Pro Bono Bankruptcy Panel has been recognized by the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey, and information about the panel is posted on the court's website.
An NJSBA member for 21 years, Norgaard is member of the Bankruptcy Law Section and chair of its Pro Bono Subcommittee. He is a member of the Bergen County Bar Association and chair of its Debtor/Creditor Section. Norgaard is an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law where he teaches advanced and regular bankruptcy law.
A Master of the Bankruptcy Inn of Court and former Reginald Heber Smith Fellow, Norgaard practices bankruptcy, commercial and collection law. He is a graduate of Rutgers College and received his law degree from the University at Buffalo Law School, the State University of New York.
The criteria used to evaluate potential recipients for the NJSBA Pro Bono Award includes the total number of pro bono hours or complexity of cases handled, the impact of the work and benefit for the poor, the successful recruitment of other attorneys for pro bono representation, and proven commitment to the delivery of quality legal services to the poor and to providing equal access to legal services.