Attorney Eric McLoughlin of Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA has volunteered with the LASC/PACO Wills clinics since 2009. The project engages volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and law students who visit low-income senior facilities to draft wills and advance directives for low-income seniors.
Unlike many of the pro bono projects that involve poverty law topics that require training from Legal Aid attorneys, the PACO clinics are a great example of how the expertise of the private bar can extend to serving the needs of the indigent community. LASC has called upon private practitioners like Eric to train and mentor new volunteers. For several years, Eric and Brandon Borgmann from Carlile, Patchen, & Murphy LLP have partnered with LASC and the Attorney General’s Office to plan and execute a CLE for AG attorneys who volunteer with LASC’s Senior Referral project and handle Wills/POA referrals for those seniors who do not reside in the facilities served by the PACO clinics.
The benefit of estate planning and advanced directives pro bono projects was summed up well by one senior: “I have always worked and paid my own way, but now I don’t have the income to do so. My volunteer lawyers fulfilled all of my expectations … I now have peace of mind.”
Eric’s primary areas of practice include estate planning, including planning for persons with special needs, probate and guardianships, and small business and nonprofit organization matters. In addition to working for several small firms, Eric was the staff attorney for the Capital University Law School Small Business Clinic for three years. But it was his experience as a student intern for the Capital Law School Legal Clinic supervised by Danny Bank and Lorie McCaughan that motivated Eric’s decision to become involved in pro bono work.
Eric disagrees with the idea that brief service clinics are less helpful due to their limited nature: “The clinics provide access to legal information and services that the clients would not otherwise be able to obtain … For example, most clients leave with a health care power of attorney that allows a person they trust to make health care decisions for them if they are unable to make the decisions for themselves. All people, regardless of income and wealth, have health care concerns, so the health care power of attorney benefits the low-income clients in the same way it benefits more wealthy clients.”
The benefit reaches not only to clients but the attorneys who serve them: “The clinics give young attorneys an opportunity to interact directly with clients, which helps build their legal and client communication skills.” Pro bono work can also impact one’s professional career, providing exposure and opportunities for referral of non-pro bono matters as it has done for Eric since he became involved.
“Eric has been at the heart of the wills clinic,” commented LASC Intake Supervising Attorney Marcia Palof. “He has helped to develop the documents, establish policies, and mentor the volunteers. He stuck with us through the early days when we weren’t as organized and had to stay until after 11:00. Without him, the Wills Clinic would not be what it is today.” Clinic Coordinator Teresa Scharf agrees: “Eric’s contribution of information and expertise has been invaluable to the Wills Clinics, its volunteers, and the senior citizens whom we serve.”
And although no one will doubt Eric’s commitment to the cause, sometimes it just comes down to the good feeling you receive from attending a clinic and sitting down with an elderly client who is grateful for the assistance. Comments Eric, “I always leave the clinics feeling better than when I came because it is rewarding to know you made a difference in someone’s life.”
For more information on the PACO Wills Clinics or Seniors Referral Project, visit our Get Involved section.