As any attorney who has volunteered for the Volunteer Lawyers Project will attest, the guidance of a knowledgeable and generous mentor is the key to a good outcome for the client and a positive experience for the attorney. Traditionally, family law cases are especially hard to place; new attorneys feel unequipped for the challenge and more experienced attorneys who are not in the field may be uncomfortable with the possibility of the emotional demands of long term representation.
Fortunately, Patrick R. Garcia has been filling the essential role of mentor for the VLP and its family law volunteers for close to five years with consummate skill and grace, along with taking on a significant number of pro bono cases himself.
Please tell us a bit about your background.
My undergraduate and graduate education is in speech and drama. I wanted to be a theatrical director. I went to law school after arriving in New York and graduated in 1982. In 1985, I opened up an office in Brooklyn and became a member of the 2nd Dept. Assigned Counsel and Law Guardian panels in Kings Family Court. In 1992, I went to work as a Support Magistrate and left that job in 2004, re-opened an office and re-joined the Assigned Counsel and Law Guardian Panels. I began volunteering with the VLP in 2004 primarily as a way to use my 12.5 years of experience doing child support cases and to re-enter practice.
How did you become involved with the Volunteer Lawyers Project and what types of pro bono cases have you handled though the VLP?
At some point I approached the VLP about doing a CLE course on child support litigation and enlisted two of my former colleagues for a panel. In conjunction with the CLE course, I am willing to mentor any person who takes a pro bono case and wants to discuss the case.
Tell us about your role as a mentor to other VLP volunteer attorneys.
My goal as a mentor is to help attorneys who want to learn support, learn the area well and provide quality representation.
When I receive a call from an attorney seeking advice, I like to meet with them, discuss the fact pattern and the probable steps (within the context of a pro bono case) that are typically performed.
How do you balance your private practice with your pro bono work?
I tend to treat the pro bono case as any other case and the pro bono client as any other client.
What would you tell other attorneys who are thinking about volunteering with the VLP?
The legal system cannot function without attorneys who do “good” for its own sake. I also think being identified as a member of the VLP garners respect from the bench and enhances your credibility as an attorney.