On June 3rd, 2023, AABANY held its Brooklyn Pro Bono Legal Clinic at Homecrest Community Services Bensonhurst Center where dedicated volunteers came together to provide free legal services to the community. Our volunteers met with 14 clients and discussed issues relating to identity theft, insurance benefits, fraud, divorce, and government benefits.
In partnership with Homecrest and other community partners, the Clinic provided a haven for community members with limited English proficiency to better understand the legal process, discuss potential legal solutions, and help clients understand their rights.
The Clinic was made possible by volunteers who generously donated their time and expertise to help those in need. It provides vital support to those who may face linguistic or cultural barriers in attempting to gain access to legal services. The volunteers’ dedication to pro bono work, aiding in both Mandarin and Cantonese, is emblematic of the Committee’s commitment to serving all members of the community.
The Pro Bono Clinic is organized by AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service Committee. To learn more about the Committee’s work visit here. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the dedicated volunteers who made the Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic such a success:
Kwok Kei Ng
Ming Chu (Judy) Lee
Interpreters & Shadowers:
Please come and join our upcoming Manhattan Pro Bono Clinic on 6/21, starting at 6:30pm at e new location, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), 111 Norfolk Street, New York, NY. You can sign up to volunteer by completing this form by 6/16 at 12:00 PM.
On December 3, 2022, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee partnered with the VNS Health staff to hold a pro bono clinic in VNS Health’s Manhattan community center from 12:00 PM to 3:30 PM.
Overall, we met with 11 clients who had questions about topics such as immigration, housing, and divorce. With help from our many clinic attorneys and volunteers, AABANY’s PBCS attorneys were able to connect clients with AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service, a program that connects prospective clients from the Asian American and Pacific Islander community with qualified lawyers who are both linguistically and culturally competent.
AABANY’s PBCS intern Connor Li spoke about his experiences at Saturday’s clinic with great reverence for the work PBCS is able to do through these clinics. He said, “It’s always a pleasure to help out at the clinic. Whether it’s meeting members of the community or listening to experienced legal professionals, I always feel like I’m learning something at every point. And with the help of the amazing VNS staff, clients with urgent needs for legal advice regarding housing, immigration, and familial issues were checked in and assigned to attorneys with great expediency. We were even able to provide Cantonese and Mandarin interpreters at nearly every client meeting, though we could definitely have used the assistance of more Cantonese interpreters. I would definitely encourage more AABANY members or willing individuals from the general public who know Cantonese to come to these clinics. Your help would be appreciated!”
As with every clinic, free lunch was provided for all attorney and non-attorney volunteers by PBCS. We thank all 11 of our volunteers for coming to provide their invaluable assistance! As always, if you have any questions about upcoming clinics, please contact us at email@example.com. Thanks again for attending, and happy holidays!
Interpreters & Observers
Please make plans to join us as a volunteer at the next Manhattan Pro Bono Clinic on January 14, or please help us spread the word. More details here.
On July 12, 2021, AABANY Membership Director Beatrice Leong was interviewed by Stefanie O’ Connell Rodriguez on Real Simple Magazine‘s “Money Confidential” podcast. During the interview, which was broadcasted on all major podcast streaming sites, Beatrice, who is a divorce lawyer, discussed the benefits of obtaining a prenuptial agreement before marriage.
The interview talks about the practicality of a “prenup” and the stigmas tied to obtaining one. To hear more about prenups, click on the following links:
On June 25, AABANY presented a CLE Program on divorce property disputes in the context of COVID-19, featuring panelists from practitioners in matrimonial law and real estate law. The panel outlined influences of the pandemic upon real property disputes in divorce proceedings, and recounted actual cases to demonstrate. Speakers included Margaret Ling, Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. and Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee; Derrick Rubin, trial attorney associate at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates; Jerome Wisselman, Managing Partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates; and Irene Angelakis, Founding Owner at Law Offices of Irene Angelakis.
Derrick Rubin began by discussing the basic considerations of property disputes. Family homes are typically the largest asset, and disputes center around who gets the house, whether or not to sell, or if one spouse should buy out another. Another necessary consideration is the legal theory of equitable distribution, which emphasizes a fair rather than equal distribution of property on the basis of various factors. Some examples include how long the parties were married, their individual needs, and the financial contribution each party made during the marriage.
Margaret Ling then outlined examples from past cases to demonstrate the benefits of in-person dealings and how remote demands of COVID-19 impose challenges. In a Chase Bank refinance transaction, a couple sought a $2 million refinance on their condo. However, the lawyer noticed the husband seemed nervous, the wife was fidgeting, and her identification appeared fake. Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that the husband was in the midst of a divorce and had brought his girlfriend in an attempt to make property adjustments while his wife was traveling — not permitted under domestic relations law which forbids property adjustments without spousal approval. Today, legal transactions that depend upon accurate identification must come up with new solutions.
Irene Angelakis continued the discussion with tips on how to avoid disputes during the pandemic and also raised ethical considerations. She talked about taking into account pandemic-induced income changes, a common circumstance today, by giving parties more realistic timelines to decide on refinancing. Another involved taking social distancing precautions if both parties decide to sell the house. The most important takeaway is that both parties should try to settle property disputes because the courts and trials are limited options during COVID-19. Irene concluded with the topic of ethics by discussing disclosure requirements, matrimonial retainer agreements, fee disputes and escrow.
A final topic explored by Jerome Wisselman was asset protection. Asset protection, through prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, are preventative legal measures taken to avoid property disputes during divorce. Provision of detailed financial statements by both parties, addressing potential future investment returns, and deciding on whether retirement benefits will be separate or together, are necessary for the creation of a fair and accurate asset protection agreement. The main takeaway is that current divorce property disputes that have been further complicated by COVID-19 circumstances may have been avoided if more asset protection agreements existed.
Thank you to all the panelists for their valuable time and insights, and thanks to the Real Estate Committee for organizing this timely and informative CLE program. To view the recording of the CLE, click on the image at the top. If you would like to learn more about AABANY’s Real Estate Committee, click here: https://www.aabany.org/page/120
On January 30, 2020, AABANY Membership Director Beatrice Leong was interviewed by Reema Khrais on her podcast called “This Is Uncomfortable.” During the interview which was broadcast on NPR, Beatrice shared a very personal story about why she decided to become a divorce lawyer. After graduating from college Beatrice and her long time boyfriend, someone she had been with since the age of 16, got married and moved in together. He worked as a financial consultant, and Beatrice went to law school. However, their relationship took a turn for the worst when Beatrice uncovered his infidelity. After a long back and forth internally, she realized divorce was her only choice. Having graduated from law school, she decided to be her own advocate and joined a family law practice to learn more about divorce law. Beatrice recounted her own consultation with a divorce attorney, found it cold and unsympathetic, and believed that she would make a better matrimonial lawyer, one who understands the emotional trauma that her clients may be undergoing.