Donors Help VLJ Meet its Match
Once again, the VLJ community has given financial support for legal services to those in need. A little over a month ago, the Bershad Family Foundation announced a challenge grant of $65,000. It pledged to match, dollar-for-dollar, all other contributions to VLJ by July 15. The deadline was met, thanks to the generosity of more than 40 businesses, law firms and individuals. (For a list of donors, see VLJ's home page at www.vljnj.org.)
VLJ Trustee David Bershad of Montclair, founder and principal of his family's foundation, previously donated $50,000 to ReLeSe.
"We can't thank David enough for his commitment to VLJ," Karen Sacks, Esq, founding director of VLJ, said at the time of the latest grant. "It's a unique opportunity to double a donation's impact, immediately turning a $100 contribution into $200."
Now that the campaign has succeeded, she notes that all 25 of Bershad's colleagues on the board of trustees were among the contributors to the matching fund. Their generosity will help VLJ continue its broad range of programs for people who need assistance with legal matters but can't afford private attorneys.
Here's an update on one effort that will benefit. VLJ's Disaster Legal Response Program provides pro bono services to New Jersey residents with legal problems arising from Superstorm Sandy. Free clinics have been held in Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Bergen and Atlantic counties and more sessions have been booked for August. Victims unable to attend a clinic have been able to call a toll free disaster hotline at (855) 301-2525.
The number one question by participants: "Have I been under compensated by insurance carriers or the Federal Emergency Management Agency and, if so, what can I do about it?"
"A typical person will have received payment, but perhaps only a percentage of what might be due," said Elizabeth Hampton, a VLJ staff attorney assigned to the effort. Staff and volunteer lawyers, many trained at a VLJ continuing legal education seminar in June, have helped craft appeals or write letters seeking review or reversal of adverse decisions. Advice on mortgages and leases also has been given. Hampton says the focus has shifted at recent clinics.
With post-Sandy cleanup efforts approaching their tenth month, a growing number of participants want help exercising their legal rights with contractors who failed to perform as promised, or, in the worst cases, took the money and ran. At a clinic at Brookdale College on July 15, for example, contractor issues were the number one problem posed by the eight participants who met with Hampton and volunteer attorneys Linda Sikora and Eric Brophy.
Programs like this will continue and thrive, thanks to the Bershad Family Foundation and donors who stepped forward with matching funds.
Pro Bono Attorney Spotlight:
Adam Budesheim, Esq.
McCarter & English, LLP
Few towns in New Jersey were hit harder by Sandy than Hoboken. Homes, businesses and public infrastructure were flooded. Residents woke the morning after and saw the tops of cars barely showing above the turbid waters.It was an obvious site for VLJ's Disaster Legal Response Program. And we are happy to salute a lawyer instrumental in that program's success, Adam Budesheim, an associate at McCarter & English.
Since last December, Adam has served at four clinics in Hoboken, assisting 12 participants from the city and nearby areas. He also took one client for pro bono full representation -- a renter unable to get an insurer's response to a query about damage to her ceiling. Adam also has taken time to use his experience at the clinic to teach other McCarter & English lawyers who have joined the DLRP team. Adam said that when Sandy struck on October 29, it was clear to him immediately that victims seeking redress could benefit from what he knew.
He represents insurance policyholders exercising their rights to coverage under various types of insurance policies, including general liability, property, professional liability and directors and officers polices. Through Emily Goldberg, Pro Bono Director at McCarter & English, he became a VLJ volunteer.
"On a lot of these insurance issues I felt I could add value to the program by using experience I have from my day to day practice," Adam said. "It's what I do."
Insurance problems have been at the top of Sandy victims' woes. Beyond the broad question of whether coverage exists are a host of small ones. A householder might not know, for example, that coverage might be available for damage exacerbated by a non-functioning sump pump, Adam said. He also has advised participants on post-Sandy dealings with contractors. Like other volunteers in VLJ's 13-year history, Adam has learned that pro bono service can be good for professional advancement.
"Although most of the Sandy victims visiting the clinics had similar insurance issues and similar flood damage, many faced problems with unique elements," he said. "Talking with the Sandy victims and helping them work through the key issues they were facing has broadened my own professional experience in ways that have been applicable and beneficial to my clients that have Sandy-related insurance concerns."
Adam Budesheim advising Sandy victim at Hoboken clinic
Jessica Limbacher, staff attorney with VLJ's Disaster Legal Response team says, "So many of the walk-in clients at clinics have expressed to me how grateful they were after meeting with Adam. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable when it comes to Sandy-related insurance issues, but he is also incredibly patient, understanding, and eager to help, which is greatly appreciated by the individuals with whom he speaks. Adam has been an enormous contributor to the success of the Disaster Legal Response Program, and we are so lucky to have him as a volunteer."
Adam graduated from Seton Hall University in 2001 and Harvard Law School in 2004. He clerked for 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. Super Lawyers Magazine surveys recognized Adam as a New Jersey Rising Star in the legal profession from 2009 to 2013.
VLJ Welcomed Six Summer Legal Interns
From left to right: Brittany Harrison (Cardozo), Eric Hassell (Cardozo), John Boehler (Rutgers - Newark), Kyle Ulscht (Seton Hall) and Nicole Stuver (Seton Hall). Not pictured: Kiera Kennief (Rutgers - Newark).
"Hobby's for Justice" Raises Funds and Fun for VLJ
Gluttony was good last month for participants in "Hobby's For Justice," the annual eat-in benefit for Volunteer Lawyers for Justice. Thanks to all who participated in this fun-filled event.
Once again, Hobby's Delicatessen proved it is a Newark landmark of both gastronomy and generosity. The owners donated 10 percent of the weekly proceeds from catering customers - and one full day from in-store patrons -- who ordered sandwiches designed and sponsored by 20 law firms, organizations and individuals.
"This is one of our favorite events each year! We are extremely thankful to all the law firms and businesses that join in the good natured fun of "Hobby's for Justice" and extend our gratitude to the owners and staff of Hobby's for their continued support," said Karen Sacks, Esq., founding executive director of VLJ.
The food fest took place the week of June 11 and, as usual, the customers voted with their stomachs early and often to select the most favorite sandwich.
The winner for 2013: "The GBGW Trustee-ee Turk-ee," piled high with turkey, pastrami, cole slaw and Russian dressing, sponsored by Angela Genova of Genova, Burns, Giantomasi & Webster of Newark.
"This competition has become an eagerly anticipated annual tradition for our attorneys and staff as we come together to brainstorm, strategize and then eat, all for the common goal of supporting the fine work of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice," Genova said. The firm's pro bono efforts also were honored at last December's VLJ gala.
Genova had two sandwiches in the competition, showing it's good to have a fallback position in an oral argument.
The other sponsors were Gibbons and partner Michael Griffinger; McCarter & English and partner Susan Feeney; Kenneth Kunzman and Richard Badolato, partners in Connell Foley; Maureen Winograd; Dennis Drasco of Lum, Drasco & Positan; Lowenstein Sandler; Joseph LaSala of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter; David Genova of Preservation Partners; Suzanne Klar and William Frese of PSE&G.
ReLeSe, VLJ, its trustees and summer associates also weighed in with sponsored sandwiches.
Save the Date!
Dec. 3, 2013:
Honoring the Heroes of Sandy
Don't miss the end-of-the-year gala, the annual Arts & Eats festival that celebrates the good work of the VLJ community.
This year's theme: Honoring the Heroes of Sandy. In the best tradition of civic-mindedness, lawyers and businesses provided pro bono legal services and funding to help needy victims of last October's storm.
Guests will gather at the Newark Museum from 6:30 to 9:30 on
VLJ's Pro Bono Service Award will be given to:
Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
Duane Morris LLP
Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, PC
Jackson Lewis LLP
McCarter & English, LLP
Patton Boggs LLP
Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti LLP
UBS Financial Services, Inc.
This will be the first VLJ gala at the Newark Museum, one of New Jersey's intellectual landmarks, and one of its most charming. Guests will dine on the offerings of Frungillo Caterers, which operates many well-known event venues.
Stay tuned in the coming months for more information on the festivities.