Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
“Find something that works for you, and make a difference.”
Prior to his legal career, Jim Abrams built an impressive resume of practical business experience as a senior executive, serving both publicly traded and privately held businesses, including as CFO for GAP, Inc. and Williams-Sonoma, Inc. After making the transition to the legal world and graduating with his J.D. from Capital University School of Law in 2003, it took Abrams no time at all to get involved with pro bono efforts.
Abrams believes that lawyers have a special franchise, and, as a result, they need to ensure that those who do not have appropriate access to the legal system are provided such access. It was this perspective for pro bono work that led him to chair the Pro Bono Committee of the Columbus Bar Association.
For Abrams, pro bono work is satisfying in more ways than one. On the one hand, pro bono work provides a lawyer with the opportunity to practice his or her profession, says Abrams. “Lawyers become better when they are in the courtroom.” Pro bono representation gives lawyers an opportunity to hone their trial, problem-solving, negotiating and other skills required of a competent lawyer; the opportunity to appear in court is particularly beneficial to younger lawyers, as it builds their confidence and competency, says Abrams. Yet aside from the interests of advancing experience in the professional world, Abrams knows that other positive benefits result from helping those without access to the legal system. “Keeping people in their homes, helping work through problems that seem insurmountable without assistance, and providing a voice to many who need it is totally satisfying,” says Abrams.
One such elderly pro bono client assisted by Abrams and his colleague Celia Kilgard, gushed over the help she received: “I just can’t say enough good things about my attorneys. They were wonderful and worked in my best interest the entire time.”
To the attorneys who tend to avoid service in pro bono advice clinics for fear that they will be recruited to provide advice in areas of the law with which they are not intimately familiar, Abrams has a word of encouragement. “Many individuals who seek advice at these clinics are primarily in need of assistance in navigating life issues with legal underpinnings of a more generalized nature and they are empowered by a limited knowledge of the otherwise unfamiliar and daunting realm of the law. Regardless of your areas of focus, you are unquestionably qualified to provide advice in these areas, especially after going through whatever issue-specific training is provided by the relevant direct service organization.”
Led by Abrams, Taft recently committed to be one of LASC’s Tenant Advocacy Project firm leaders, sending their lawyers to eviction court twice per month. “Taft and its Columbus office are committed to ensuring that those who cannot afford access to the legal system in central Ohio are served. Not only are we pleased to participate in this important LASC initiative; but participation permits our attorneys to have a real impact on this under-served population.”
According to Abrams, “The only challenge in providing these services is overcoming our own trepidations and misconceptions about what will be required of us. Providing pro bono legal services will inevitably prove fulfilling, both personally and professionally. Find something that works for you, and make a difference.”
To Join Abrams, Taft, and the 50+ lawyers who have already assisted the LASC Tenant Advocacy Project, click here!