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Pro Bono

Over 300,000 residents in southern and western Brooklyn qualify financially for services from SBLS. With existing resources, SBLS can meet only a fraction of their legal needs. Volunteer attorneys play an essential role in bridging this gap. Please consider sharing your expertise and knowledge. Listed below are a variety of established ways to do pro bono work with SBLS, but we’re always interested in hearing your thoughts about other projects. If you have ideas about other pro bono projects, please contact Chip Gray at (718)237-5524.


One of the best ways for a firm to help SBLS is through our innovative Externship Program.

This program benefits both clients and firms. We are able to help more people, and associates get hands-on litigation experience that is not always easy for them to acquire in a large firm. Currently Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP contributes to SBLS by filling full-time attorney positions in our Housing Law Unit. Through four month rotations, associates have an opportunity to handle cases in Housing Court, which are both complex and time-pressured.

Another particularly effective form of pro bono work involves a firm setting up a continuing project to handle a series of similar matters. Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, for example, runs a wills clinic with our HIV Project.

Clients in any SBLS unit would benefit from such a program. If you are interested in hearing more about how you can establish a rotating associates program for your firm, please contact Chip Gray at 718-237-5500 or chipg@sbls.org.

Below, you can read about individual projects requiring pro bono assistance at SBLS. Click on the [+] for more information about these cases.

Individual pro bono cases

All Pro Bono Projects

In all projects, SBLS would provide initial and follow-up training and support in individual cases. One goal, however, would be for the firm to develop, over time, an in-house capacity to provide supervision in many cases. All clients would be pre-screened by SBLS and referred to firms on an agreed schedule.

HP Cases in Brooklyn Housing Court

The cases seek correction of housing violations. Many people who will be referred to pro bono counsel would already have been represented by SBLS attorneys in eviction cases. These court proceedings offer associates the opportunity to litigate in a relatively straightforward context in matters that have a big impact on clients’ lives.

For more information, contact Brent Meltzer at (718) 237-5577.

New York City Housing Authority hearings

The firm would represent public housing tenants in administrative hearings, mostly where tenants are threatened with ultimate eviction. While they have potentially serious consequences for tenants, the administrative hearings are less formal than court proceedings and appropriate to be handled by relatively inexperienced associates.

For more information, please contact Brent Meltzer at (718) 237-5577.

Child support proceedings

The cases could involve representation of either petitioners or respondents. The needs of petitioners are straightforward. Respondents typically need reduction in support obligations as a result of loss of employment or recent return from incarceration.

For more information, contact Anna Maria Diamanti at (718) 246-3261.

Federal Debt Collection Practices Act cases

These are Federal actions for statutory damages usually involving clear violations of the Act and are both educational and satisfying. In addition to helping poor clients they deter future abuses by collectors.

For more information, contact Johnson Tyler at (718) 237-5548.

Domestic Violence immigration cases

Victims of domestic violence face terrible problems when their abusers are also their immigration sponsors. The law provides a solution, but requires extensive interviewing, collecting of documents and drafting of affidavits. The cases are appropriate for corporate and other non-litigation associates.

For more information, contact Anna Maria Diamanti at (718) 246-3261.

Certificates of relief from disabilities

People convicted of felonies can obtain these certificates after successful rehabilitation. They are an important step in re-entering society. The main work involved is collecting documents and preparing affidavits, so they can be handled by both less experienced associates who are wary of court as well as by paralegals.

Housing Court non-payment cases for people who are HIV-positive

Associates can gain general litigation and in-court experience. The availability of HASA benefits to clients who are HIV+ can sometimes make resolving these housing cases easier than other ones.

For more information, contact Cathy Bowman at (718) 237-5571.

SSI waivers

Disabled people receiving SSI benefits are sometimes overpaid, often through agency error. Overpayments are nevertheless recovered by reducing the already subsistence level of SSI payments unless the recipients can obtain a waiver of the overpayment based on hardship. Many disabled people are unable to get waivers they deserve without legal help and suffer significant hardship as a result. These cases are appropriate for corporate associates and paralegals.

For more information, contact LaTanya White at (718) 246-3272.

Matrimonial and Bankruptcy cases
SBLS works closely with the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project. The Volunteer Lawyers Project allows inexperienced lawyers, as well as veterans, to take on relatively simple matrimonials, bankruptcies, and related cases. Extensive training programs and materials are provided by the Project.

For more information, contact Jeannie Costello at (718) 624-3894 or by email at jcostello@brooklynvlp.org

Date posted: 21 February 12

Ongoing pro bono needs