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Pro Bono Spotlight: Younger attorneys embrace Campaign for Justice challenge

James Paulino II started his career at Ward Greenberg Heller and Reidy LLP a few years ago, so he was well aware of the Campaign for Justice as an annual fundraiser for civil legal services provided by the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Legal Assistance of Western New York and Volunteer Legal Services Project (Ward Greenberg has hosted the campaign phone-a-thon for numerous years).

Representing small and medium-sized firms in the Campaign for Justice Law Firm Challenge were, from left,  Anthony Scalia (Pullano & Farrow), Franz Wright (Bond Schoeneck & King) and Brendon Fleming (Ward Greenberg Heller & Reidy), alongside campaign co-chair Jeremy Cooney (Mayor Lovely Warren’s chief of staff). Credit: Nora A. Jones

Representing small and medium-sized firms in the Campaign for Justice Law Firm Challenge were, from left, Anthony Scalia (Pullano & Farrow), Franz Wright (Bond Schoeneck & King) and Brendon Fleming (Ward Greenberg Heller & Reidy), alongside campaign co-chair Jeremy Cooney (Mayor Lovely Warren’s chief of staff). Credit: Nora A. Jones

When Jeremy Cooney, chief of staff for Mayor Lovely Warren, asked Paulino to help increase the involvement of attorneys under 40, he was excited to take a more active role by helping to identify firms by number of attorneys as potential participants in the Law Firm Challenge – a special competition targeting attorneys under age 40 at law offices and agencies.

Paulino, currently a litigator at Goldberg Segalla, personally reached out to Faraci Lange, Davidson Fink, Woods Oviatt and Boylan Code, getting the younger attorneys involved – with great success.

“Everyone (I contacted) took great initiative and reached out to their peers without any real prodding from me, and folks seemed to appreciate that we were trying to get the next generation of attorney leaders involved,” Paulino noted.  “There was a tremendous response, and it was encouraging to see so many younger attorneys committed to the campaign’s goals.”

Hanok George at Littler Mendleson PC shared similar thoughts about making contact with Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, Pullano & Farrow and his own firm, which has several young attorneys.

“While most people I spoke to were aware of the Campaign for Justice, I do not believe they were very familiar with the details of the campaign or that three organizations were funded by this one project,” George said.  “I think it was a mix of both the competitive nature of the challenge as well as the clarity it provided about the fundraiser.”

With two years of employment law experience at Littler, George enjoys the fast-pace of the legal field along with learning new things nearly every day.

“I am proud to have played one small part towards helping low-income families in need of critical legal assistance,” he added.

Christian Valentino, who helped create Pullano & Farrow in 2013, admits that the Law Firm Challenge sharpened his focus on the campaign, even though he has been in practice 14 years.

“I learned that, traditionally, not enough attorneys donate to the Campaign for Justice. I believe the Law Firm Challenge raised awareness of the campaign,” Valentino stated. “I heard many people comment that it was nice to see so many ‘younger’ attorneys getting involved early in their respective careers, which should be beneficial to future campaigns since this year’s participants will surely continue to spread the message to their colleagues.”

At Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, Diana Clarkson acknowledged that the challenge helped encourage participation from younger attorneys who have so many demands on their time and money.

In practice since 2008, Clarkson’s primary areas of concentration include tax, private equity and venture capital, but she has been volunteering at VLSP’s Family Law Clinic for six years, so she is well aware of the community needs.

“In helping to coordinate my firm’s efforts for the campaign, it was a great opportunity to discuss the importance of these agencies with my colleagues and to discuss my own involvement in VLSP as an example of the types of programs supported,” Clarkson said. “The mixer at Cure was a great event and a really nice way to get folks out of their offices to connect in a low key environment.”

Several others mentioned the Law Firm Challenge Recognition Social at Cure as a highlight of their involvement. Sponsored by AppealTech and Chase, the cocktail reception on Dec. 9 provided a forum to recognize the hard work of many who helped raise more than $10,000 in the three-week “challenge” initiative.

At Nixon Peabody for four years, Meghan McGuire admits her close day-to-day work with Carolyn Nussbaum and Dave Tennant – long-time members of the Campaign Cabinet – gave her a solid foundation in campaign knowledge.

“We have a very charitable culture at our firm, and we wanted to make sure we represented that by doing well in the challenge,” she said.

McGuire, an associate in commercial litigation, enjoys the people she works with. “They strongly encourage community involvement, so when I got involved in the Law Firm Challenge, I had a ton of support.”

Having joined Ward Greenberg in August 2014, Brendon Fleming was new to the campaign this year. With nearly five years of litigation experience from working in New York and Washington, D.C., he seems glad to be back home and getting involved in the Rochester community.

“I’ve been aware of and concerned about the growing need for civil legal services since I was in law school,” Fleming shared.  “I only learned about the Campaign for Justice in 2014, but by getting involved in the Law Firm Challenge I learned a lot about the great work of the participating organizations.

“In particular, I was excited to learn about the work VLSP does to leverage the wealth of legal talent in the Rochester area to provide pro bono legal services to low income individuals.”

Another “newbie” attorney, Anthony Scalia, was among the Law Firm Challenge participants at Pullano & Farrow. Scalia is an associate in the business and corporate practice group, approaching his second anniversary as an attorney.

“I was excited to contribute by coordinating Pullano & Farrow’s participation,” Scalia shared. “When I approached our Pro Bono Committee about coordinating the challenge for the firm, they immediately gave me their blessing. We had excellent participation with all of our under-40 attorneys contributing.

“I also enjoyed meeting other like-minded young attorneys in Rochester as a result of the campaign,” he added.

There were over 100 such attorneys participating in the Law Firm Challenge – and 80 percent of the gifts from the “under 40” attorneys were new this year.

The winners of the Law Firm Challenge (with the highest percent participation of attorneys under 40) included: Faraci Lange; Pullano & Farrow; Bond Schoeneck & King; Davidson Fink; Littler Mendelson; Ward Greenberg Heller & Reidy; Harter Secrest & Emery; and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. Congratulations to all!

VLSP offers a wide variety of opportunities for attorneys to provide full representation to low-income clients or provide advice at monthly clinics. Practice areas include divorce, wills, unemployment, insurance, guardianship, consumer, bankruptcy, collections, child support, custody and visitation.  Attorneys in our Micro-Entrepreneur Pro Bono Program render advice to low-income entrepreneurs.

Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County announced its “Honor Roll” of attorneys and paralegals who recently took cases or staffed clinics.   

December 2014 Honor Roll

Solo practitioners: Barbara Baer; Carl Darnall; the Hon. Patricia Marks; John McQueen; Amado Marin; Robert Nicolais; Richard F. O’Connor; Robert F. O’Connell; George Parker; Maureen Polen; Glenn Smith; Thomas Rohr; Paul Watkins.

Attorneys at firms: Bruce Lawrence (Boylan Code LLP); Herbert Le Page (Forsyth, Howe, O’Dwyer, Kalb & Murphy PC); Ernest Ferullo (Gates & Adams); Steven Levitsky (Handelman, Witkowicz & Levitsky); Benjamin Mudrick, Luis Ormaechea and Thomas Tuori (Harter Secrest & Emery LLP); Bradley Kammholz (Kammholz Messina LLP); Benjamin Casilio (Pearl Law Firm PA); George Schell Sr. (Schell & Schell); Nathan Van Loon (Van Loon Menard); R. Thompson Gilman and Rene Reixach (Woods, Oviatt, Gilman LLP); John Suda (UAW Legal Services Plans).

Government: Andrew Borelli (Appellate Division); Linda Kostin (Appellate Division); Michael Davis (City of Rochester Law Department).

Nora A. Jones is a freelance writer with long-term ties to The Daily Record and Thomson Reuters. She can be reached at njones01@rochester.rr.com.

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