Guest blogger: Adriana Dulic is vice president of regulatory affairs at Epoch Payment Solutions in Santa Monica, Calif., and chair of ACC Southern California pro bono committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
As an immigrant from a war-torn country that has come full circle from being a student on a student visa to becoming an American citizen, I have a deep sense of appreciation for the life that I get to live today and a passion to give back so as to ensure that others get the same opportunity. This is one of the reasons why I not only volunteer every chance I get, but I am also the chair of a very active pro bono committee for ACC Southern California.
As chair of ACC Southern California’s pro bono committee, I am always on the lookout for any opportunity that may be of interest to our members. As a corporate counsel, I am also well aware of the obstacles (i.e., time constraints, resource limitations) that the in-house community faces in volunteering and providing pro bono services, which makes finding a suitable opportunity pretty challenging.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has always been on my radar as an organization that I personally wanted to work with and something that I felt would be of great interest to our members. At the same time though, I knew that it may be a hard sell to in-house counsel, given that most KIND cases stretch far into the future (up to 18 months). Most in-house attorneys are transactional attorneys with not much court experience, while much of KIND representation requires representation in a courtroom.
However, when I approached KIND, they came up with an idea that has allowed over 50 of our members in the past year to assist them. KIND allowed our members to volunteer at intake clinics where they could interview unaccompanied minors who have risked their lives to escape the violence in Central and South America, which would often take days or weeks for KIND to accomplish. KIND in turn uses information collected by our members during the intake interviews to determine what assistance they may be able to offer to each child. It was a win-win for everyone involved and our members wholeheartedly embraced these clinics, becoming by far the most popular pro bono clinics on our calendar. ACC Southern California recently held its 3rd intake clinic in partnership with Gibson Dunn and KIND.
Having participated in all of these clinics, I found the life stories that these kids shared with us unsettling and I wanted to do more. With very limited litigation experience, I was worried about messing things up in court with potentially serious consequences. KIND once again found a great solution and partnered me with Hannah Cary, an associate with Latham & Watkins — a law firm that my company uses as an outside counsel. This was a brilliant solution as Hannah is a litigator and thrilled to be making all court appearances on behalf of our client. In fact, she confessed this was the first time that she didn’t have to fight over who will get to make an appearance in court. So, we meet with the client and work on gathering the documentation and drafting our pleadings together, and she handles court appearances on her own.
There are great advantages to this in-house/outside counsel relationship as it allows both sides to contribute and play to their strengths. And in this day and age, when most companies are no longer willing to pay for the training of associates, it allows young associates to get important court experience and provide valuable service to our communities.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the support of KIND staff attorneys, especially Kari White. Hannah and I are no experts on immigration law, and without KIND staff attorneys’ assistance and willingness to answer our endless questions and review our drafts, we would not have been able to make much progress with our case. Their kind and patient staff is top notch!
Bottom line: don’t let fear prevent you from doing your part in giving someone else a shot at the American dream. It will be a life-changing experience for both you and your client.
Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like more information about ACC South California’s pro bono clinics.
For more information about KIND, please visit supportkind.org. If you are interested in learning more about the ACC Litigation Committee’s pro bono initiative with KIND, please contact ACC Litigation Committee Vice-Chair and Pro Bono Chair Coleman T. Lechner at firstname.lastname@example.org.