Gail Torodash is an associate at a civil litigation firm in Manhattan. She is an active volunteer fo the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and has been representing VLP clients in the areas of child support, uncontested divorce, custody and visitation, foreclosure for the last two years. Below, she answers a few questions about her involvement with the VLP.
VLP: Tell us a bit about your education and background, and how long you’ve been volunteering with the VLP.
Gail Torodash: Since graduating from Pennsylvania State, Dickinson School of Law in 2009, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with several non-profit organizations, including the Volunteer Lawyers Project. I became involved with the VLP about a year and a half ago, during the summer of 2012. I had just started a position at a mid-sized anti-trust firm, and was looking for opportunities to litigate on behalf of low-income New Yorkers. My background is primarily in family law, along with commercial and securities litigation.
VLP: How did you become involved with the Volunteer Lawyers Project and what types of pro bono cases have you handled though the VLP?
GT: A couple of years ago I received a bar association email about free CLE training programs offered through the VLP. In return for the credits and the training, I committed to take on a pro bono case. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to fulfill my credit hours, receive practical training, and gain more experience in court doing the kind of work I want to do. The VLP handles cases in the areas of uncontested divorce, support, custody, consumer debt, wills, bankruptcy, 17A guardianship, and foreclosure; I currently have clients for uncontested divorce, paternity, child support, and foreclosure.
VLP: Why do you do pro bono work?
GT: There are many low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford legal representation, which creates barriers to securing their rights and benefits. My education and training gives me the ability to advocate for them, and the VLP gives me the opportunity to gain experience in areas beyond the scope of my usual practice. Handling my first pro bono case through this organization was a deeply rewarding experience, so I kept volunteering. My work with the VLP has also been a great opportunity for learning and networking.
VLP: What are your recreational activities/pastimes?
GT: In addition to my pro bono legal work, I’ve volunteered with several animal rescue organizations and have fostered many special-needs pets. I explore cultural events around New York, pull down my competitive bowling team’s average, and have been practicing yoga for the past few years.
VLP: What would you tell other attorneys who are thinking about volunteering with the VLP?
GT: I would strongly encourage more attorneys to volunteer with the VLP. The staff attorneys are extremely knowledgeable and supportive, and there are so many opportunities to do advocacy work and explore different areas of law for an attorney looking to gain exposure to various fields. Since taking on my first case I’ve received continued guidance from the VLP’s staff.
VLP: Any additional comments you may have?
GT: I’ve successfully recruited other colleagues to get involved with pro bono work at the VLP, not only for the free CLE credits, but also by working on cases together. It’s convenient if your work schedule makes the commitment difficult. You do not have to be a member of the Brooklyn Bar Association in order to participate in any of the pro bono projects – I am a member of the New York County Lawyers Association (which hosts additional pro bono programs, such as the U.S. Tax Court Project, the Legal Counseling Project, a CLARO clinic, and Project Restore).