In 2014, the Seventh Judicial District Help Center served 1,951 unrepresented litigants, according to Scott MacPherson, VLSP attorney currently overseeing the Help Center.
That’s about double the traffic the Center had in 2013. It represents a pretty busy year when you also consider that the Help Center is only open 22 hours a week, with hours 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and afternoon hours 1:00-4:00 Monday through Thursday.
“I have been very impressed with every volunteer’s willingness to take on questions that may be outside of their legal expertise and comfort zone,” MacPherson said.
“One interesting call from an unrepresented litigant is especially noteworthy,” he continued. “The client was trying to research court cases on a specific topic and asked about one particular court opinion they had trouble understanding. The volunteer who answered the call was the Hon. Patricia Marks, and it happened to be an opinion she wrote. She was able to refer the caller to other pertinent research that would clarify the decision.”
Attorneys, paralegals, and law students are welcome to volunteer. There are 1.5 hour afternoon shifts and 2.0 hour morning shifts. Give Scott a call (585) 295-5712 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last summer, Joseph Dudek, a student at Columbia Law School, used his strong organizational skills to establish a set of forms in Google Docs and provided access to the documents via Google Drive from any computer connected to the internet. Materials were assembled into the chronology of a case (filing complaint, answering complaint, pretrial motions, etc.) and physical copies are also available in racks behind the Help Center desk.
In addition, Dudek helped clients during his VLSP internship, noting how it expanded his knowledge of New York law.
“Every client question tended to involve some segment of New York law regarding marriage, renting, or procedure – the stuff I had not been exposed to at Columbia,” he noted.
By Nora A. Jones.