PRO BONO ATTORNEYS OF THE MONTH
Andrew Thaler, Adam D’Antonio, Harold Somer and Stuart Gelberg
Since its inception in 1981, Nassau Suffolk Law Services Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), in cooperation with the Nassau County Bar Association (NCBA), has involved the most dedicated private attorneys as partners in its quest to meet the civil legal needs of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.
Approximately thirty years ago, the VLP collaborated with the NCBA to launch the Bankruptcy Project. This highly successful free bankruptcy clinic continues to serve hundreds of clients per year, with bi-monthly screenings usually held at the NCBA. These screenings are staffed by experienced volunteer bankruptcy attorneys. They assist clients seeking to relieve oppressive financial burdens and gain a fresh start.
This year, COVID-19 has wrought havoc upon our community and posed unprecedented challenges to the delivery of legal services to these low-income, disabled and disadvantaged individuals. Our in-person clinics could not be conducted. Nevertheless, four of our dedicated volunteer attorneys came forward immediately. They were able to quickly adapt their screenings to virtual mode, conducting most of their meetings by telephone or skype, and exchanging documents via email when necessary. During the most stressful and unnerving periods of the pandemic, these attorneys put aside their own personal challenges to ensure that no eligible client would be left adrift or feel abandoned.
Accordingly, we are privileged to recognize these attorneys: Andrew Thaler, Adam D’Antonio, Harold Somer and Stuart Gelberg as our most recent Attorneys of the Month. We would like to share some of these attorneys’ thoughts on what their pro bono service means to them.
Andrew Thaler, Esq.
Andrew Thaler is in private practice in Westbury, focusing on bankruptcy, debtor and creditor rights, and trustee representation. He is a past Chair of the NCBA Bankruptcy Committee, and one of the founding members of the Bankruptcy Clinic back in 1990. Since that time, he has regularly attended the clinic, and has assisted with filing many pro bono Chapter 7 Bankruptcy matters for these clients. Over the past ten years, he has volunteered hundreds of hours and handled 94 cases for VLP clients.
Thaler reflects, “unfortunately, many of us can only truly count our blessings when we see the suffering of others. I have interviewed people whose lives were always challenged due to poverty caused by health and mental issues. Others had some or even a high level of success only to face some life altering event beyond their control which changed their lives. Knowing that I can do just a little bit with my time and have something positive happen for these people is rewarding. It gives pause to reflect on my own blessings, which are many. Getting a heartfelt thank you from someone you helped is a great feeling, but just knowing that I did a good deed is all that matters. “
Thaler also enjoys meeting other attorneys at the clinics because it provides an opportunity to share thoughts on legal matters and to connect personally and professionally.
Adam D’Antonio, Esq.
Adam D’Antonio is in private practice in Garden City, focusing on elder law and guardianship, trusts and estates, and bankruptcy. He first worked with Nassau/Suffolk Law Services as a law student. Since his admission, he has been involved in the Nassau VLP Bankruptcy Clinic and the Advanced Directives Initiative, as well as the Suffolk Pro Bono Project’s Social Security/Disability program. Over the past ten years, D'Antonio has assisted on 53 VLP pro bono matters, volunteering over a hundred hours to needy clients.
During the past 13 years of association with the NCBA, D'Antonio served as a board member and a chair of the Membership and Community Relations Committees. He was also among the first group of recipients of the Access to Justice Award for pro bono service. In 2019, he received the Board of Directors Award for Outstanding Service to the NCBA.
D'Antonio feels that “serving as a volunteer attorney is extremely rewarding because we assist individuals who would otherwise be intimidated by or prohibited from seeking legal advice due to the inability to afford consultation fees. These people are often overwhelmed and confused. It’s a wonderful feeling to see their concerns ease after a consultation.”
D'Antonio believes that we will begin to see more COVID related concerns as forbearance and foreclosure moratoriums come to an end. “The next few months would be a great time for new attorneys to become involved with the program. “
Harold Somer, Esq.
Harold Somer is in private practice in Westbury, focusing in the area of bankruptcy and debtor/ creditor rights. Mr. Somer was also one of the founders of the VLP/NCBA Bankruptcy Panel in 1990, and he has continued to serve regularly since that time. Over the past ten years, he has donated several hundred hours and assisted over 163 VLP clients both screening and filing Chapter 7 petitions. He also serves on the NCBA Mortgage Foreclosure Consultation Clinic. Somer has garnered numerous awards, including the New York State Bar Association President’s Pro Bono Service Award in 2015.
Somer feels that every client deserves to be treated with compassion and dignity. During these COVID times, many marginalized individuals are even more isolated, and unfortunately cannot get the same level of comfort from virtual communication. Nevertheless, his keen desire to give back to the community propels him toward making a meaningful connection and giving each client peace of mind.
In his spare time, Somer and his wife started Hurley’s Heart Bulldog Rescue, which is dedicated to rescuing and fostering English Bulldogs until they find forever homes.
Stuart Gelberg, Esq.
Stuart Gelberg is a consumer and business bankruptcy attorney in private practice in Garden City. In addition, he handles commercial litigation and previously served for over twenty years as a trustee in Chapter 13 bankruptcy matters. He has also been a dedicated volunteer with the VLP for more than two decades.
Gelberg has represented approximately 509 pro bono clients in both Nassau and Suffolk counties over the past 10 years, logging in countless volunteer hours. Fittingly, he has been named Pro Bono Attorney of the Month on several past occasions.
Gelberg considers it the responsibility of each attorney to provide pro bono services to the community. He is glad to fulfill this opportunity through the VLP, and gratified when his clients tell him that he has made a difference in their lives. “I am grateful for the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Pro bono clients remember the service and expertise you provide them forever.”
In recognition of these four attorneys’ extraordinary commitment to Nassau County’s neediest citizens especially in these trying times, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, along with the Nassau County Bar Association, are pleased to honor Andrew Thaler, Harold Somer, Stuart Gelberg and Adam D’Antonio as our latest Pro Bono Attorneys of the Month.
If you would like to volunteer in Nassau County, please contact Susan Biller, Esq. 516-292-8100, ext. 3136, or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to volunteer in Suffolk County, please contact Carolyn McQuade, Esq. at (631) 232 2400, ext. 3325 or email@example.com.