The attorneys and support staff of the Law Department of CSX have been accepting guardianship, guardian advocacy and temporary relative custody pro bono cases for a year and a half.
They are providing assurance and stability for the care of vulnerable and frail members of our community.
Attorney Erin O’Brien and Legal Administration Manager Cathy Hilf recently completed a case that by all accounts can be described as a resounding success.
They described their case and the outcome:
What were the basic facts of your case?
Our client was the mother of a son born with Down syndrome who was 19 years old.
The mother needed to be appointed as her son’s guardian advocate so that she had the legal authority to continue making decisions about her son’s medical care, education, and finances now that he was an adult.
What did you accomplish for your client?
We were able to get the mother appointed as her son’s guardian advocate.
Why was the outcome important to your client?
Peace of mind! Our client was anxious after her son turned 18 that someone might question (and rightfully so) her authority to act on behalf of her son. Her son’s condition had not changed, so she needed to be able to legally continue to make decisions for him. She has other children as well as a full-time job and she was understandably worried about the situation.
Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience?
We gained insight into how relatively easy it was to assist a wonderful family with a hard-working and loving mother who clearly needed to retain the ability to make decisions about her son’s care.
What kinds of pro bono cases does the CSX Legal Assistance handle?
At CSX, we are concentrating on guardian advocate proceedings and temporary and concurrent custody by extended family.
That way, we can develop some expertise in this area of the law and also can support each other and work together on cases.
What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?
If you have any interest at all — do it! Also, many of us at CSX who are working on these cases have not been in private practice for years and, with JALA’s support (and patience on behalf of the judge as we re-learn our way around a courthouse), we are able to significantly improve someone’s life with just a few hours of time.
The time commitment was well worth it when we saw the smile on our client’s face after the final hearing.
Pro bono involvement is manageable and meaningful.
Pro bono attorneys new to an area of practice are provided with a variety of support resources including substantive webinars, expert consultants, Westlaw access and professional liability coverage.
The need is great and attorneys in corporate counsel departments can provide assistance in a variety of ways.
The request is simple: Help one client with one legal issue. Pro bono assistance is impacting our community in lasting, positive ways - just ask the client of O’Brien and Hilf. For that matter, ask O’Brien and Hilf.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected].