Von Dubose, a partner at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP talks about his pro bono work with the Georgia Justice Project.
Mickey Mixson, a senior partner in our law firm introduced me to the Georgia Justice Project—Mickey has spent much of his time and resources with the Georgia Justice Project. GJP’s staff and volunteers defend people accused of crimes, and win or lose, they stand with them while they rebuild their lives. GJP offers free legal services coupled with a full range of social and employment services.
After coming aboard with GJP and meeting the people associated with the organization and learning their level of commitment to this work I was blown away. I then learned about the organization itself and how they work with the clients and their families. I think the support the organization provides to the families of its clients is tremendously impressive.
With success in the private sector comes a corresponding obligation to commit our money, resources and expertise to the pro bono community. It’s a holistic approach. There is an obligation as an attorney to be as Charles Hamilton Houston once said a “social engineer.” There has to be some balance in one’s career. Lawyers in particular are uniquely suited to assist in this arena.
My service on GJP’s board has only confirmed what I already knew. I come from a middle class family. My mother worked as an educator to provide for us. We were well-clothed, fed and educated. However, we still struggled financially. That being said, I’m from Alabama and I’ve seen firsthand what GJP clients face and have family who’ve gone through it. It’s not a foreign issue for me. It’s great to know there are resources here in the Atlanta area addressing this and that this organization exists.
The legal community in the Atlanta area has gone above and beyond to help. It’s been very responsive. One of the best ways the legal community can support is to translate “why it’s important to support this effort” for the larger professional community. People need to understand that this work and its implications are much more in-depth than what appears on the surface. GJP must expand its support base beyond the legal community. The messaging needs to be addressed to the society as a whole. The “why it’s important to support this type of bro bono work” is the challenge for GJP.
I want the community to know there is phenomenal leadership at the Georgia Justice Project—across the board from its staff to its long-time board members. It’s rare to see this level of commitment and professionalism. The people associated with this organization are just phenomenal.
The Truancy Intervention Project is proud to highlight the volunteer efforts of Jennifer Thomas, a volunteer attorney with the law firm of Jones Day LLP. Jennifer has been a volunteer with TIP since 2010 and has represented seven clients as a TIP attorney. Originally from Atlanta, Jennifer earned her undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University. She received her law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. while serving as managing editor of the Howard Law Journal. After returning to Atlanta, Jennifer began looking for ways to use her newly acquired legal skills to give back to her native city. She found TIP through the recruiting efforts of TIP board member and Jones Day partner, Rick Deane, and 2011 Volunteer of the Year winner, Tasheika Hinson, formerly of Jones Day LLP.
"I have always worked with kids, and when I heard about TIP, it just seemed like a natural fit," said Jennifer. "I really love that I am able to use my legal skills and help children and the community at the same time."
"Jennifer is an ideal volunteer; she is dependable, detail-oriented and very dedicated to the children and families of Metro Atlanta," notes Jessica P. Pennington, the executive director of Truancy Intervention Project Georgia.
A corporate attorney with a focus on banking and finance, Jennifer has spent time inside and outside of the courtroom successfully advocating for her clients. Her very first case involved a client who had suffered through a sexual assault. Jennifer expertly brought all parties together and was able to get the truancy case dismissed and her client back on the right track. After more than a year of the case being dismissed, Jennifer is still involved with her client. This summer, Jennifer helped her client get a job at a dance studio close to her school with the hopes that her client would be able to continue her employment during the school year.
Jennifer is an avid recruiter for TIP and has taken over duties as TIP's Jones Day Liaison, helping to cultivate and mentor volunteers within Jones Day. We applaud Jennifer for her dedication to TIP and more importantly the children and families of the city she calls home.
Anne Myers has been practicing law for over 25 years. Currently, she practices in her own firm located in Peachtree City. She is a trained mediator and arbitrator. Over the years, she has clerked in the federal courts, worked in government agencies, practiced in large law firms and provided in-house representation to local companies.
Her true passion is assisting low-income clients in family law cases - especially those clients who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney and have a fair shot at justice as a result. She has demonstrated this passion through her committed delivery of pro bono services to low income Georgians through the Georgia Legal Services Program pro bono project. Anne believes that "as lawyers, we have a duty to use our talents and knowledge to help those who cannot get access to legal help. If all lawyers would just commit to taking a few cases a year, we could vastly improve the legal system in this country." Her willingness to accept complex pro bono cases and her zealous advocacy always exceeds the call of duty.
Anne has been accepting pro bono cases from GLSP since 2007. Over the past five years, she has accepted nearly 30 pro bono cases referred by GLSP. She has completed extensive pro bono work from other referral networks as well. Her work typically focuses on assisting victims of domestic violence and their children in emotional and contested family law cases. Her clients frequently comment on the high quality representation she provides and her hard work to ensure that all families have access to a lawyer. Thanks to Anne's work, many more women, children and families in Georgia are safer and able to live in households free of violence.
As Assistant General Counsel of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., Rick McMurtry oversees trademark, advertising, and domain matters for Turner brands such as CNN, Cartoon Network and TCM, Turner Classic Movies.
What sets Rick apart from many of his in-house peers is his strong commitment to pro bono work. "I enjoy being able to help charitable organizations and work with avaried number of clients with various interests and people."
Through Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, Rick has dedicated his time and talents to complete 20 pro bono projects for nonprofit organizations in Atlanta on issues ranging from trademark registration and infringement to domain name protection. Nonprofits that have benefited from Rick's legal assistance include Enchanted Closet, which provides prom dresses to low-income girls, and Positive Impact, which helps those that have been diagnosed with HIV. Jill Robbins of Soccer in the Streets, a current pro bono client of Rick's, says, "he is eager to share his knowledge and makes it his mission to protect the interests of his pro bono clients."
As Rachel Spears, executive director of Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta states, "As head of the trademarks group at Turner Broadcasting, Rick brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the pro bono matters he takes. But beyond that, he shares his personal brand of kindness and humor that puts the client at ease."
Rick graduated from Belmont University in 1991 and then studied at Vanderbilt University School of Law where he served as Senior Student Writing Editor of the Law Review. Following law school, he was honored to serve as a judicial clerk for Judge Robert Echols with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Prior to joining Turner, he worked in private practice at Howrey & Simon in Washington D.C., and Powell, Goldstein, in Atlanta.
When it comes to pro bono and access to justice, small-city lawyers have a unique perspective. They understand the demand for pro bono services from a solo and small firm angle. And as solos and small firm practitioners, they are frequently called upon to help in their communities. In a small town, there are no high-rise building elevators or security desks to separate a lawyer from people with critical legal needs who can't afford a lawyer.
Our Volunteer Lawyer of the Month for April is a very accessible lawyer in a small firm outside Atlanta: Michael Geoffroy.
Michael is a partner in the firm LaMalva, Geoffroy & Oeland, PC, in Covington and Conyers, where he handles estate planning, corporations and civil litigation matters. Prior to joining the firm, Michael served as corporate counsel at Telrite and as an associate at Moulton & Tarrer in Conyers.
A graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, Michael has become a leader at the state and local bar levels. In 2011, he was included in Georgia Trend Magazine's Legal Elite for General Practice. He is a past president of the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division, a position which he used to promote legal aid, pro bono and access to justice causes. He serves as a volunteer lawyer for Georgia Legal Services Program, but his work on "the bigger picture" - helping to increase awareness of the need for better funding and other support for legal services programs - provides a great model for other lawyers and law firms.
"Michael's support for the work of Georgia Legal Services is broad and deep, and started when he got involved with disaster legal assistance with GLSP, a program the State Bar YLD has supported for over 15 years. He understands and shares our commitment to justice for all, and has made pro bono work a priority for his law firm," says Phyllis Holmen, GLSP's executive director. "Michael talks often and in public about how doing pro bono work has been a life-changing event for him."
In March 2011, under Michael's leadership, the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division dedicated its annual fundraiser to Georgia Legal Services. The purpose of the annual Signature Fundraiser is to raise funds to support a non-profit selected by the YLD's board of directors. This year, the fundraiser raised more than $45,000 to support Georgia Legal Services' mission to provide free legal assistance to low-income Georgians.