It was a day of recognition for pro bono lawyers across Chemung County. Many gathered at Bernie Murray’s restaurant for their 22nd annual Bar Association luncheon.
“We in Chemung County, our Bar Association has been doing this for over 20 years,” Deputy Director of the Legal Assistance of Western New York, Thomas Dubel said. “Every year we get together to honor those who have been kind enough to donate their time throughout the course of the year.”
19 pro-bono lawyers were honored for their hard work in providing legal representation to Chemung County residents that are unable to afford a lawyer. It’s events like these that indicate how important pro-bono work can be.
“We are glad to see an additional 19 members that we have honored,” Dubel said. “We’ve now had 940 cases that these attorneys have done free, out of the goodness of their own hearts for our community.”
The New York State Bar Association’s President-Elect, Sharon Stern Gerstman was also in attendance today, answering questions and connecting with Chemung County lawyers.
“I thought it was very important to come and make that connection,” President-Elect of the N.Y. State Bar Association, Sharon Stern Gerstman said. “But, to also find out from them what their challenges are in their practice and how the State Bar can help them.”
Gerstman feels that independent pro bono work is extremely important at the local level, due to the lack of funding for some legal service providers.
“There isn’t enough funding and there aren’t enough lawyers to provide that,” Gerstman said. “So, what these 19 lawyers did, is that they volunteered to do at least one divorce, from start to finish, for someone who otherwise couldn’t afford to have it and might have to wait endlessly for legal representation.”
Currently, the Chemung County Bar Association has pro bono cases in uncontested divorces, simple wills and estates, consumer debt settlements, and chapter seven bankruptcies.