Refreshing News on a Hot Day
On another sweltering July day, as media reports swirled about stalemates in Washington, turbulence in the Middle East, and a controversial jury decision in Florida, one piece of good news went underreported. This past Monday, President Obama welcomed former President George H.W. Bush back to the White House to celebrate the Points of Light Foundation, an organization created by Mr. Bush in 1989 to honor volunteer service. The day got even better when Obama announced the creation of a new federal task force to find more ways to widen public and private volunteerism toward tackling national priorities.
Volunteerism is a uniquely American pastime. In the 24 years since Points of Light’s founding, the number of Americans who volunteer has increased by more than 60 per cent. Equally impressive is the fact that both teens and older Americans are now 40 percent more likely to volunteer than these same age groups were in 1989.
Nowhere is the volunteer spirit more evident than in the legal profession, where the concept of “pro bono” has become central to the life of a lawyer. New York broke new ground in 2012, when Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that 50 hours of pro bono service will now be a requirement for admission to the New York State Bar. Taking it one step further, the Chief Judge has also actively promoted an initiative that would encourage every licensed attorney to perform 50 hours of pro bono service annually, and would require that they report their pro bono work as part of the bi-annual reregistration process. Both measures are designed to help address the needs of the poor by increasing the availability of the free legal services throughout the State.
NYLAG could not exist without our volunteers. If you walk through our offices, you will see volunteer attorneys, law students, college and even high school students working together, alongside NYLAG’s paid professional staff. In partnership with law schools, we run intensive year-long clinics for law students. Supervised and mentored by NYLAG attorneys, these students advocate on behalf of clients while gaining practical legal skills. Every year, over 800 volunteers donate more than 100,000 hours to NYLAG, vastly expanding our ability to serve clients. We simply could not serve 50,000 people each year without them.
The heat wave is a great excuse to give a little back to the most vulnerable among us. You can help by donating your time to a local nonprofit that helps people find shelter from the blistering heat, or one that provides access to the nutritional and health care services they need to stay well. Check in on your elderly neighbors to make sure they have adequate air-conditioning, or that they can get to another location, such as an NYC Cooling Center, if a/c is not available at home. Maybe keep a few extra bottles of water in your bag for an especially wilted fellow subway traveler. Whatever you do, you’ll feel refreshed.
Blog Post by Yisroel Schulman
President & Attorney-in-Charge