Volunteer of the Month – February 2019
Firm: Patnaik Law Office, PLLC.
1. What types of pro bono cases have you accepted?
I’m currently handling wills and other probate matters for DVAP, and in the past I have accepted bankruptcy cases. DVAP runs a great program and provides a lot of support for their volunteer attorneys.
2. Describe the most compelling pro bono case.
I helped a single mom of two teenagers, whose husband passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, recover money in a bank account. It was only about two thousand dollars, but that’s a lot of money for a struggling single mom. Most banks will only accept a signed Small Estate Affidavit, Letter Testamentary, or Letter of Administration before they will disperse the funds, and it’s difficult for someone with no experience or knowledge in this area to know where to begin.
3. Why do you do pro bono?
I truly believe that access to legal services should be available to everyone, and not just those who have the resources to pay. I started my career as a non-profit attorney before moving into private practice, and sometimes it’s challenging to find the time to do pro bono, but as attorneys, we have a skill set that distinguishes us from many others and handling even one pro bono can really make a difference in someone’s life. If you’re not familiar with the starfish story, you should google it!
4. What impact has pro bono service had on your career?
Pro bono service has enriched my legal career by helping me expand my skill set so I can provide advise and services beyond my usual practice. Most attorneys focus on one or two main areas of law, or even sub-specialties within one area of law, which is great, but it’s nice to be able to help a broader range of clients when other questions come up.
5. What is the most unexpected benefit you have received from doing pro bono?
Doing pro bono cases really keeps me grounded. Sometimes the more routine tasks of being a lawyer or dealing with difficulties clients or opposing counsel can take a toll, and knowing that I’m helping someone who might not otherwise be able to get help reminds me of why I became a lawyer in the first place.