Pro Bono Attorneys Honored for Work in Extraordinary Circumstances
By Csaba Sukosd | November 13, 2020
For many Ohioans, the coronavirus pandemic has caused unexpected hardships. Fortunately, there are plenty of legal aid volunteers stepping up to support them.
Five of these pillars of the legal profession recently were highlighted for their efforts during an annual pro bono awards ceremony coordinated by the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC), Columbus Bar Association, and the Columbus Bar Foundation.
"My mother and my father always taught me that your time and talents were given to you in order to serve others," said Hannah Botkin-Doty, an unemployment appeals hearing officer who was honored for her service as an attorney advocate.
The event was held virtually, which has become these Good Samaritans' primary method of assisting others with unemployment, housing, and other issues.
Instead of meeting with clients in person or participating in clinics where they could come into contact with hundreds of people, the legal aid volunteers are adhering to safety precautions that limit those interactions to videoconference and telephone conversations.
"More than ever, access to justice and information about legal rights remains important to members of our community," said Keesha Warmsby, a corporate financial attorney and award recipient who increased her legal aid involvement during the pandemic.
Even though their plight has gone from bad to worse, the low-income people themselves are a source of inspiration and motivation to those who help them.
"In the beginning of the pandemic, it was a way for me to help. So, I think it really benefited me probably more than it did the client," said Deborah Crawford, non-layer volunteer acknowledged for her efforts with a virtual unemployment clinic.
Along with that fulfillment, is appreciation, not in the form of accolades, but from those at risk. Even the simplest of requests, such as procuring the right paperwork or pointing a person in need in the right direction, can be life altering.
It's what keeps retired attorney, longtime volunteer, and award honoree, Kevin Duffy involved with LASC's volunteer resource center after several years. In his role, he refers cases to pro bono attorneys in lieu of assigning them to an LASC attorney, ensuring that fewer people fall through the cracks.
"For that, and other reasons, I plan to do this as long as I am able," said Duffy.