“Come on in. The water’s fine!”
Despite how it sounds, Eric Henricks’ advice is not a quote from a recent summer vacation. Instead, Eric—Assistant General Counsel and Pro Bono Coordinator at Nationwide—is providing his encouragement to those attorneys standing cautiously on the side of the pro bono “pool.” Eric has had a long-standing and active commitment to developing and supporting Legal Aid pro bono programming for clients in need.
Like wading into the shallow end, volunteering with Legal Aid is less treacherous than it seems: “The fear or apprehension of the unknown is greater than the actual danger,” Eric explains. “LASC provides an awesome support network, great training, and comprehensive materials for volunteers.”
Eric and his Nationwide colleagues first partnered with LASC many years ago to pull together a local version of Clinic in a Box®—a program designed as a nonprofit legal check-up that was developed by Corporate Pro Bono Org. He then helped LASC set up a consumer clinic for pro se litigants that eventually evolved into the Volunteer Resource Center Consumer Project—which matches volunteer attorneys with clients facing certain consumer lawsuits. In 2013, Eric led an effort to increase pro bono participation by setting up consumer case co-counseling relationships between Nationwide in-house counsel and attorneys from local firms, including Bricker & Eckler, Porter Wright, Bailey Cavalieri, and Thompson Hine. In addition to his work with the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Committee, Eric also regularly attends the LASC-sponsored brief advice clinic in the Hilltop area.
Eric’s career path to Nationwide was far from linear. After eighteen years in the restaurant business as a cook/chef/caterer, he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OSU with plans of becoming an art teacher. In an unexpected turn of events, Eric’s basement art studio flooded and destroyed the majority of his portfolio. Viewing the disaster as a sign that perhaps he was destined for another path—one heading towards Capital Law School’s paralegal program—he took a temporary paralegal position at Nationwide as claims reviewer in a class action lawsuit. He was then hired on for a permanent position and was able to attend the night program at Capital while working full-time. Since law school, Eric has remained at Nationwide, where he now practices in the Investments Practice Group.
Although he is quick to credit his supportive wife of 24 years, Eric’s ability to balance pro bono work with his full-time position at Nationwide and four children between the ages of 10 and 16 is impressive to say the least. How does he do it? “Like anything that is worth doing, you have to make it a priority. Monthly clinics after work make it easy to maintain my day-to-day practice. But even taking on a case for direct representation is manageable and can easily integrate into the daily work flow.”
Eric’s motivation to volunteer comes from a spiritual drive based on the belief that “it is our duty and our privilege as divine beings to deploy these gifts and talents for the benefit of our fellow travelers in this life.” He follows two simple guiding principles: “Be the change you want to see” and “Lift where you stand”. Volunteering keeps his mind, body and spirit balanced, while satisfying an intellectual desire to learn new areas of law and a professional goal to meet certain ethical expectations to give back. “I can only imagine the difference these programs make in peoples’ lives. For me it is a few hours out of a month,” he acknowledges, but “for them it could be they get to keep food on the table for another month.”
Although his commitment to Access to Justice is reason enough to recognize him, Eric’s kindness and compassion in all aspects of his life is worth mentioning. LASC is so fortunate that Eric’s path led him to our pro bono program, as he continues to lead others to the volunteer pool through his leadership and support.
For more information on LASC pro bono opportunities, visit our Get Involved section.