Barry Epstein defies the perception that solo practitioners cannot fit pro bono into their overcrowded schedules. As a general practice attorney who handles many types of cases, including probate and family law, Barry donated nearly 70 pro bono hours to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (“LASC”) in 2014-15. Barry has a strong history of providing legal services to clients through the pro bono programs at LASC and the Columbus Bar Association (“CBA”).
Barry became involved with pro bono work by taking to heart the encouragement of the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who urged all lawyers to volunteer in filling the need to provide legal service to low income individuals. Barry began by representing low-income families through the pro bono component of the CBA’s Lawyer Referral Service. In 2008, he started accepting pro bono foreclosure cases from LASC through the “Save the Dream” project. Four years later, at the encouragement of Bert Kram and John Hartranft, he expanded his involvement by joining LASC’s Volunteer Resource Center (“VRC”), defending landlord-tenant evictions and credit card collection cases.
In 2012, under the capable leadership of a core group of well-respected Columbus attorneys—including Mike Renner, Bert Kram and John Hartranft—the VRC was established to help connect Legal Aid clients with pro bono attorneys. VRC cases are screened by a group of lawyer and non-lawyer volunteers, each of whom spends a few hours per week at LASC’s office and are supervised by LASC staff. In exchange for their participation, pro bono lawyers receive malpractice coverage, access to LASC mentors, free continuing legal education, and CLE credit for their pro bono hours. Since its inception, the project has expanded to include Unemployment Compensation cases and rent escrow matters.
Barry has learned much from his pro bono cases, and these lessons have carried over to his private practice. He believes that when you “do good for others not only do you feel good about it, but nine times out of ten it helps you in other ways.” Barry says “it is easy to be nice to people” and that makes the cases rewarding to handle.
VRC volunteer and LASC Board member John Hartranft has known Barry Epstein for many years and considers him a good friend. John hates to “take advantage” of that friendship, but when the VRC needs to refer a difficult case, he often calls Barry because “he is so good.” Each situation is unique to the particular family and John says “Barry has a lot of experience and is very good at bringing a reasonable common sense solution to the problem. He has provided us with spectacular results in these cases.” One tenant represented by Barry in 2014 was enduring terrible housing conditions, facing an eviction, and desperately hoping to be released from his lease without further liability. With Barry’s assistance, the tenant is now living in a much more suitable apartment and “cannot thank Barry enough for providing me with representation and clear direction. I am so grateful for all of the help from Barry and Legal Aid. Without their representation, many in poverty in the Columbus area, especially minorities, would not have anyone to assist them in issues like this.”
Barry’s example highlights how volunteers—even those solo practitioners with busy practices—can truly make a difference in peoples’ lives.
For more information on how you can join volunteers like Barry, visit our Get Involved section.