In honor of this special anniversary, the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (“VLP”) highlights some of the remarkable volunteer attorneys whose pro bono work can be seen in the strength of the VLP today. The VLP model harnesses the talent of local professionals to make access to justice a reality for our clients; we could simply not do this without volunteers like those featured below. Celebrate your contribution to the VLP’s 25 years–read the inspiring stories of highlighted volunteers at different points in the VLP’s 25-year history and commit to 25 dollars a month in their honor.
“Without dedicated volunteers many of those most in need of assistance will find themselves taken advantage of or trapped in undesirable situations.”
Anna Yasova graduated in 2014 from New York Law School, and initially came to the VLP to complete the required 50 hours of pro bono for admission to the New York Bar. Because of her prior background in uncontested divorce and consumer law, we felt comfortable assigning her clients in these areas. She efficiently began resolving both matrimonial and consumer debt matters with ease and patience. Anna soon took on several clients at a time, far exceeding her required hours. We are thrilled she found the VLP as she has become a regular presence at the VLP office. She is fluent in Russian and has donated her time translating for VLP cases and assisted Russian-speaking clients on a pro bono basis. Below, she discusses the learning process after obtaining her JD, the importance of passion in any field, and the humility pro bono work brings.
VLP: Tell us about yourself. What is the nature of your practice?
AY: I am a recently admitted attorney beginning my practice in family, immigration, and business law.
VLP: How did you first get involved with the Brooklyn VLP?
AY: I first learned about the VLP through the NYLS Office of Career Planning while looking for an organization through which I could complete my pro bono requirement.
VLP: Has your work at the VLP assisted you professionally?
AY: Volunteering with the VLP taught me to manage my own caseload and has given me a wonderful group of attorneys I can turn to when I need assistance. It also has given me opportunities to obtain additional professional training from area experts.
VLP: Why do you continue to do pro bono at the Brooklyn VLP?
AY: After a short time with the VLP I came to truly appreciate pro bono service and the people I volunteer alongside. The people we assist cannot afford to pay an attorney and rely on us to help them navigate difficult situations. I have seen the consequences of a client’s attempt to resolve legal issues by relying on advice from friends or associates not involved in legal practice and want to help keep other people from those same pitfalls. I enjoy putting my legal and language skills at the disposal of those who need it.
VLP: What advice would you give to law students or recent law graduates?
AY: The best advice I can offer law students and recent graduates is to find an area of law that really inspires them when choosing specialty. The most important steps we can take in the early stages of our careers are to lay a solid foundation for a practice that will keep us interested and engaged and to develop a support network we can rely on for guidance.
VLP: Why is it important to do pro bono work?
AY: As a law student or lawyer it’s easy to take our knowledge for granted, assuming that if something seems straightforward to us, it will appear that way to everyone. In truth it is our training and experience that allow us to navigate through an often intricate legal process. Without dedicated volunteers many of those most in need of assistance can be taken advantage of or find themselves trapped in situations they can’t resolve on their own.
VLP: Can you share any VLP success stories?
AY: A number of my cases involved divorces where the marriages had broken down years ago. A surprising number of these cases involved parties that had separated over a decade ago, but were unable to move on with their lives and relationships because they weren’t able to afford an attorney. Helping clients move on is also a large part of volunteering with CLARO, where I was able to help a number of older client’s stop collections activity against them so they could have peace of mind and a clear conscience for their retirement.
VLP: What can you take from earlier experiences at the VLP and what has meant the most to you?
AY: My experience at the VLP has taught me the importance of looking beyond the legal issue to the person its affecting. Knowing that clients have confidence in my skills and value my advice enough to contact me for help with other issues has truly meant the most to me.