April 30, 2020
Whew! Wow. What a time for introductions. I am thinking of all of our volunteers, and hope that you are doing well during this difficult time. LASNNY is incredibly grateful for your past service to our clients.
My name is Jacob Drum, and on March 5, 2020, I began work as LASNNY’s new director of the Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) program. That seems like several decades ago, since shortly after that the organization, like the state and much of the country, began a historic shift to remote legal service work in response to COVID-19. Our service to indigent individuals has never been more necessary, nor has that need come at time faced with so many challenges. That is why, as part of LASNNY’s COVID-19 PAI Response, we hope to mobilize a team of volunteer attorneys in anticipation of the urgent need for legal assistance. In addition, we hope to educate attorneys in fields such as and income protection where we believe we are likely to see increased need.
For some background: I have worked for indigent clients since my first law school internship, spending time in federal defender offices from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Buffalo. When I first started doing this work, my picture of a lawyer was someone who wanted to make a lot of money without getting any callouses. I was quickly disabused of this notion.
The public interest lawyers and volunteers I have met throughout my career have inspired me with their devotion to a deceptively simple idea: equality under the law. I know some version of that thought exists within every one of you, whatever your background or practice area, and my gratitude for that fact is what gets me out of bed in the morning. (Well, that and two hungry cats.)
We face a difficult time for the profession, but LASNNY is committed to making this journey as efficient and as comfortable as possible for our volunteers as well as our clients. To that end, we are planning trainings and compiling practice guides targeted at what we feel will be the greatest needs when we come through the current health crisis, such as unemployment , bankruptcy, and advance planning. We can see the that the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing to the small businesses that are the backbone of our community and neighborhood, and we are exploring how we can best help them.
We are working hard to update and maintain the most up-to-date information on the changing legal landscape; our staff has been working non-stop to ensure that we can meet the coming legal need together. I want to be as accessible to you as possible as we navigate these uncharted waters. Please contact me if there is anything I can do to make easier, and continue to register for our upcoming CLE’s including “Understanding Unemployment Insurance Benefits during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Both LASNNY and I will continue to update you as we figure out how we can all best advocate for those whose voices are most easily drowned out. Stay tuned, stay safe and healthy, and above all stay passionate in your pursuit of our clients’ rights. I am with you, I am here for you, and I am unendingly grateful for your service.
Yours in remote solidarity,
PAI Director, LASNNY