Bar News - February 19, 2010
2010 Pro Bono Referral Program Awards
The annual Pro Bono awards presented at the 2010 Midyear Meeting spotlight the diversity of volunteer commitment, whether by geography, subject matter or special project. The awards reflect responses by the Pro Bono program and Bar members to the tough economy, including the rise in foreclosures, bankruptcies and the strains imposed on families by unemployment and poverty.
L. Jonathan Ross Award for
Outstanding Commitment to Legal Services for the Poor
Catherine E. Shanelaris
Attorney Catherine Shanelaris is passionate about Pro Bono and access to legal services for those in need. Over the years she has consistently taken challenging cases for some of the most vulnerable clients, focusing on family law issues. And this is just the beginning. She mentors newer attorneys, serves as faculty at Pro Bono training programs and coordinates and participates in Pro Bono referral marathons.
|Catherine E. Shanelaris
A member of the Pro Bono Board, Cathy is actively engaged in setting Pro Bono policy and lends her experience and knowledge to statewide legal services planning.
The award, named for Jon Ross in 1988, recognizes his work on the state and national level to mobilize bar leaders to support civil legal services, and generally honors a careers’ worth of service and dedication to pro bono service.
Virginia A. Martin, NHBA Associate Executive Director for Legal Services, said:
"Humble about her many contributions, Cathy is a steadfast and loyal volunteer, who brings an infectious sense of humor and a profound sense of fairness to all she does." A founding member and partner of the law firm Shanelaris & Schirch, Shanelaris serves on the NH Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission and is a certified marital mediator.
Home Rescue Team
With the sharp rise in foreclosures over the last two years, the Pro Bono Program began receiving more and more calls for help from desperate homeowners. Karen McGinley, an attorney at Devine, Millimet & Branch, took on one such Pro Bono case and saw an opportunity to recruit other non-litigators. With assistance from NH Supreme Court Associate Justice James Duggan and the Pro Bono staff, the Home Rescue Team has so far recruited more than 46 volunteer attorneys , and the number of clients helped has doubled in the past year. We celebrate the innovative methods of the Home Rescue Team and the dedication of the volunteer attorneys who are helping many families hold onto their homes throughout NH.
Pro Bono Rising Stars
Melissa S. Penson, of Smith-Weiss & Shepherd in Nashua, joined the Pro Bono volunteer panel in November 2008. Attorney Penson has taken 15 Pro Bono cases representing low income clients with issues as diverse as family law, evictions, guardianships and mortgage foreclosures. Her passion and dedication to helping those is need is evident each time she contacts Pro Bono to ask "what can I do to help?"
|Melissa S. Penson
Imagine how it might feel to face losing your home to foreclosure without ever talking with an attorney about your legal rights and possible remedies? For many New Hampshire families facing this crisis, Christopher Paul, an Amherst attorney, is there to lend a sympathetic ear and dispense much-needed legal advice. Chris, a recent graduate of Franklin Pierce’s Webster Scholar Program, volunteered full-time last summer to assist Pro Bono Program clients. He continues to serve those in need through his weekly volunteer commitment by responding to calls from families facing foreclosure or trying to work out loan modifications with their lenders.
Eric M. Sommers
Eric M. Sommers, of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton represents a new generation of volunteers coming forward to help the Pro Bono program. As a crisis center advocate recently told Pro Bono, "There is something very special about Attorney Sommers – he has the ability to put clients at ease. He is respectful and empathetic yet never loses perspective of his role as the DOVE attorney." Eric takes as many DOVE cases as his schedule allows, making adjustments on his calendar to represent victims of domestic violence, often with very short notice. Since joining the DOVE panel in the fall of 2008 Eric has represented nearly a dozen DOVE clients, shoring up the existing panel’s effort to offer dependable, emergency services to low-income victims of domestic violence in the greater Manchester area.
|Eric M. Sommers
Mary F. Stewart
In these harsh economic times, many people need a fresh financial start - and the Pro Bono Program has strained its resources to respond. Fortunately, sole practitioner Mary Stewart of Concord has stepped up to help. In the past two years, she has taken on the daunting task of reviewing hundreds of lengthy bankruptcy applications. Her efforts help assure that the Pro Bono volunteers who ultimately accept these cases have a thorough understanding of the issues involved. In addition, Mary has been instrumental in recruiting, training, and mentoring new bankruptcy attorneys as well as taking on her own Pro Bono cases. She is an exemplary volunteer.
Low-Income Taxpayer Project
Beth L. Fowler
When the Pro Bono Program contacted Attorney Beth Fowler of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton in 2003 and asked her to help launch the Low-Income Taxpayer Project, she said, "yes," and has continued to say "yes" to helping Pro Bono clients ever since. Working with the IRS to resolve a tax dispute can be a daunting and, for some, a seemingly impossible proposition. For many Pro Bono clients, however, Beth is there to review their case, provide counsel and represent them before the IRS when needed. Helping clients is not the extent of Beth’s contributions. She regularly lends her expertise, presenting at seminars, acting as a mentor for newer attorneys, and answering staff queries. She is also a tenacious recruiter who has helped the Project expand its volunteer panel. We thank Beth for her tireless efforts and dedication to helping low-income taxpayers and for being an invaluable resource to the Project’s clients and staff.
Always looking to expand the ways they can help, the volunteer lawyers at Orr & Reno consistently answer "yes" when called upon to assist the Pro Bono Referral Program and its clients. In addition to taking cases in domestic relations, housing, insurance disputes, immigration and estate planning, the Concord firm hosts an annual Pro Bono Referral Marathon every summer – last year that event resulted in more than 30 cases referred in one day. Orr & Reno also assists Pro Bono’s case review process, ensuring that applications for assistance are properly reviewed and meet established guidelines before being accepted into the Program. Critical to the future vitality of Pro Bono, new associates at the firm are encouraged to participate in the Program. Further, Orr & Reno associates and partners have not shied away from taking challenging and time-consuming cases – resulting in hundreds of donated hours.
Equal Access to Justice
Orr & Reno
Pro Bono Coordinator
Mary Jo Herman
This award marks what one woman can do to make a huge difference. Just ask one of the 400 Pro Bono clients that have walked through the doors of McLane, Graf, Raulerson, and Middleton in the last dozen years. Mary Jo Herman, a paralegal, is the firm’s Pro Bono Coordinator, the one who has heard their stories from the Pro Bono Program and said, "Yes, I think I can find help for this person." No matter how difficult the clients’ issues or how busy the attorneys, Mary Jo succeeds in placing the cases. In 2009, Mary Jo assisted Pro Bono in finding legal representation at the McLane firm for more than 60 clients. She is part of a tradition of Pro Bono Coordinators at McLane who have worked directly with the Pro Bono Referral Program in helping the firm fulfill its commitment to provide legal assistance to those less fortunate. The staff of the Pro Bono Program is extremely grateful for Mary Jo’s commitment, her empathy and understanding of the issues Pro Bono clients often face.
|Mary Jo Herman
Rural Access to Justice
John R. McKinnon,
Charles L. Greenhalgh
The Pro Bono Program is very fortunate John McKinnon of Campton is willing to cover cases over a wide geographic area. He takes on not only tough domestic law cases but also helps low-income families preserve their housing. John shows heartfelt concern for his clients and is unflappable when challenged by difficult pro se opponents while maintaining his good humor and professionalism. For these reasons and more, the Pro Bono Program has selected John McKinnon to receive this special award for providing rural families with vitally needed legal services.
Charles Greenhalgh, of the Cooper Cargill & Chant law firm in North Conway has been a dedicated Pro Bono volunteer since he began practicing law in the early 1990’s. When he moved to North Conway in 2000, the Pro Bono Program was elated that he would be available to help meet some of the area’s needs. He quickly developed a relationship with the local crisis center, taking DOVE cases along with training and mentoring new attorneys. Recognizing the shortage of legal services in neighboring Coos County, Charles reached out to the crisis center in Berlin. Charles also handles complicated parenting and other family law cases and provides guidance to the Pro Bono Program through his service on the Board.
Housing and Consumer Rights
Lawrence M. Edelman
Larry Edelman, of Pierce Atwood in Portsmouth, is a longtime volunteer with the Pro Bono Program who has represented numerous low-income families over the years. With the economic downturn and rising client need, Edelman is one of those special volunteers who have stepped up to do even more, focusing on cases involving housing and consumer issues. He invariably agrees to accept new clients while still handling the cases of multiple needy clients facing loss of housing or income. A former member of Pro Bono’s Governing Policy Board, he has become a go-to lawyer on the Seacoast for debt collection, consumer and housing cases. When bankruptcy is not an option for low-income consumers, Larry will help them deal with their creditors.
|Lawrence M. Edelman
Beyond the Borders
Christian W. Lund
Geography has not stopped attorney Christian Lund from assisting low income Granite State families with their legal issues. From his office in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Attorney Lund has been an active NH Pro Bono volunteer since joining the panel in 2004. Since that time, he has served numerous Pro Bono clients with family law and housing cases, providing crucial access to legal services for low-income residents of Cheshire County, an area of the state where requests for assistance often exceed volunteer resources. In addition to taking New Hampshire cases, Lund has also provided counsel to other Pro Bono volunteers when questions arise regarding Massachusetts laws in the context of NH clients’ cases.