Browse the latest Pro Bono Opportunities at The Legal Aid Society.
NOTE: These opportunities are only available to attorneys affiliated with firms that have an established pro bono relationship with The Legal Aid Society.
If you are interested in working on one of these matters, please contact the Pro Bono Counsel at your law firm to receive authorization and check conflicts.
Consumer Banking Consultation
Seeking Consultation With Consumer Banking Expert on Behalf of Unemployment Insurance Claimants
A large number of unemployment benefit claimants, many of whom are poor unbanked workers, don’t or can’t use direct deposit so the New York State Department of Labor is issuing them debit cards through KeyBank in order to access their unemployment funds. None of the claimants sign up for, or agree to, any terms and conditions from KeyBank and these workers are encountering a myriad of problems. These include being charged with fees for replacement cards because many claimants are not receiving their initial cards; ATM fees; daily withdrawal limits, resulting in people having to make multiple withdrawals over a period of several days and therefore incurring additional ATM fees. People are waiting in line for hours in order to access a Key Bank ATM. Additionally, claimants are told that they cannot go to an in-person teller to avoid the fees and many of the ATM sites are closed. These problems are detailed in recent New York Times and New York Post articles: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/nyregion/keybank-nyc-coronavirus.html https://nypost.com/2020/05/30/hundreds-join-massive-line-at-nyc-atm-for-unemployment-benefits/
The Director of Legal Aid’s Employment Law Unit would very much like to consult with an attorney experienced in consumer banking to determine whether there is any recourse for poor, unemployed workers who, in order to receive the unemployment benefits due them, are also forced to pay fees to a private third-party bank.
Protecting the Rights of Workers
Pro Bono Assistance Needed for Former Nanny With Unpaid Wage Claim
For approximately 15 months, our client was employed as a live-in nanny. Despite working between 66 and 72 hours per week, six days a week, our client was paid well below the minimum wage and never received any overtime pay. After a year in this position, she requested that her salary be increased, at some point in the future, to $10/hour which is still well below the minimum wage. Although her employers agreed initially, after one month, they abruptly fired our client and ordered her to leave their home immediately. At the time, she had not been paid in weeks and had to beg them to give her a full week’s worth of salary for her to be able to afford shelter and move out.
In January 2020, a demand letter was sent to the defendants. A pre-litigation negotiation followed, and a tolling agreement was executed. One of the defendants offered an amount to settle all claims that was well below the wages owed to our client.
We are seeking pro bono assistance drafting and filing a complaint in the Southern District of New York. The case will involve client interviewing, complaint drafting, settlement negotiations, including participation in anticipated court-ordered mediation, court appearances and discovery, including drafting demands and taking and defending depositions.
Restaurant Delivery Person Seeks Pro Bono Assistance with Recovering Unpaid Wages
Our client was a delivery person for a restaurant from September 2016 through March 2019. Throughout his employment, he was paid an average of $6.35 an hour, and was never paid for overtime work despite routinely working up to 64 hours per week. In addition, his employer required him to purchase illegal e-bikes to do his job at his own cost. Our client has claims for unpaid wages, and for reimbursement of business related expenses he paid out of pocket.
A demand letter was sent to his employer in December 2019. A pre-litigation negotiation followed, and a tolling agreement was executed. The defendant offered an amount to settle all claims that was well below the wages owed to our client.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to draft and file a complaint in the Southern District of New York. The case will involve client interviewing, complaint drafting, settlement negotiations, including participation in anticipated court-ordered mediation, court appearances and discovery, including drafting demands and taking and defending depositions.
Man Targeted by Revolutionary Army in Colombia Seeks Assistance Applying for Asylum
In August 2019 our client, a native and citizen of Colombia entered the United States. He fears returning to Colombia due to repeated targeting and extortion by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In 2016, a peace deal was negotiated between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces, but there has been growing violence in the past year, and a call to arms for the Forces to resume its guerilla movement. Our client would like to request asylum in the United States because he fears being targeted again if he is forced to return to Colombia. He needs to file for Asylum by August of this year. Additionally, his son will become a United States citizen in March 2021, and we anticipate that the son would then be able to petition for our client to obtain lawful permanent residency.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to assist our client with his application for asylum and potentially with applying for lawful permanent residency through his son.
Assistance for Organzations
Pro Bono Counsel Needed to Advise and Assist Private NYC High School Black Alumni Group
Legal Aid represents a Black Alumni group (operating as an unassociated association) that is made up of graduates of a private all-girls school in Manhattan that prepares a diverse community of girls and young women for the lifelong transformation of self and the world with purpose, passion and perspective. The Black Alumni have created a community responding to the schools Anti-Racism task force and commitment to diversity, inclusion & equity. Student, alumni and parents have created a social media page that address concerns and provides testimonies of the student (some parent) experiences of racism. The group accepts statements from the school’s alumni about racism and before posting anything on the social media page, the group edits and screens the posts to remove identifying details.
The Group is seeking pro bono assistance for the following issues:
- Legal advice re how to protect the group if individual testimony posted on the social media page includes someone’s name. The group wants to be able to remove names – the group will post a disclosure to readers that testimonials may be edited to remove identifying information.
- Legal advice re the possibility of creating a NPO to engage discourse around race, activism and unity.
- The group would like to provide stipends for individuals providing conversations around activism through Zoom seminars and in order to do so, the members would like to create a GO-FUND-ME page to pay for administrative costs and stipends. The group is seeking pro bono counsel to assist them in negotiations with the private school in the hopes of persuading the school to reallocate some of the school’s annual fund income to this group for projects.
Limited Pro Bono Representation for 501(c)(3) in NYS Supreme Court
The Legal Aid Society was assigned in Criminal Court to represent the president of a 501(c)(3). The organization provided a platform for persons making charitable donations to distribute those donations to specific charities. Having run the organization successfully for 10 years, the client began failing to make the distributions/donations as a result of suffering from increasing mental health issues. The criminal matter is pending in New York County but the client has not yet been indicted. The ADA from the Major Economic Crime Bureau has indicated that once they receive documentation of the mental health issue, they will withdraw the case. We are not looking for pro bono assistance on the criminal matter.
However, the client has also been sued by the NYS Attorney General in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Because of her deteriorating mental health, co-conservators have been appointed on behalf of the client and Legal Aid has identified pro bono counsel to represent her. The firm has been working with the AG to try and resolve the matter but in order to do so, a second firm is needed to represent the entity itself, which has also been named as a Defendant, in the Supreme Court litigation. Specifically, the organization needs to authorize the release of documents and obtain credit card information stored on behalf of the company. Although we anticipate agreement on the resolution, it is important that the organization have independent counsel.
We are seeking pro bono counsel to consult with the Chairman of the Board in expectation of representing the 501(c)(3) in Supreme Court.
Trusts & Estates
Legal Aid Attorney Seeks Trusts and Estates Consultation to Advise Housing Court Client on Surrogate’s Court Proceedings
The Legal Aid Society’s Housing Law Unit represents a tenant who has resided in a Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-op apartment with his now deceased partner for almost 25 years. Our client his deceased partner both purchased and owned shares appurtenant to apartment #5B of an HDFC co-op in June 1995. Later that year, the couple moved to apartment #7E in the same building. They lived together until our client’s partner died intestate in January 2015. Now, the Estate of the deceased partner is suing to evict our client from Apt #7E, claiming that the Decedent is the sole proprietary tenant of #7E. Our client does not have possession of the proprietary lease or stock certificate because his deceased partner was the Vice President of the co-op board and handled all the records and transactions in question. Legal Aid has obtained discovery but neither the HDFC nor the Estate produced the proprietary lease and stock certificate appurtenant to apartment #7E. The HDFC merely produced a memo from the co-op board acknowledging the Decedent as the sole proprietary tenant for apartment #7E. All parties are now engaged in settlement discussions which could result in our client surrendering possession of the apartment in exchange for a percentage of the proceedings from a prospective sale of the apartment. A case conference is scheduled for July 29.
The Legal Aid attorney would like to speak with a trusts and estates attorney who has experience in probate matters in Surrogate’s Court in order to understand if a stipulation in Housing Court regarding ownership of real property/personal property could have any effect or be enforced in a Surrogate’s Court matter. We are looking to protect our client’s rights to the sale of the proceeds upon his vacatur of the apartment. Depending on the advice that is given, we may seek representation in the Surrogate’s Court matter as our client has not yet appeared in the Surrogate’s Court matter, nor did he file any claims, objections, or motions. We are seeking a consultation with a trusts and estates attorney who can provide guidance to the Legal Aid attorney before July 29.
Estate Assistance Needed to Help Client Resolve Foreclosure
When our client’s mother passed away she had an outstanding loan for her home. The home is now in foreclosure. The Legal Aid Society has been attempting to assist our client in assuming her mother’s loan or to get a loan of her own to pay off the existing loan to resolve the foreclosure case.
Our client’s mother left a will, but there were complications in the administration of it. We have been able to assist our client in resolving some issues, but are now seeking assistance with an outstanding issue. Our client’s father was not an owner of the home in question, but he was still married to our client’s mother at the time of his death. In addition to this, we encountered trouble finding a nephew of the mother in order to complete the estate administration process.
At this time we are seeking assistance with putting the property in our client’s name in order for her to move forward with either obtaining her own loan for the home or to assume her mother’s loan and resolve the foreclosure case.