On February 25th, 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. In partnership with Homecrest and other community partners, the Clinic provided an opportunity for individuals to meet with attorneys to discuss legal issues related to housing, criminal law, and immigration. The volunteers were able to offer guidance on 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. These volunteers included attorneys, law students, and our community partners who worked together to make a difference in their community. The Clinic provides vital support to those who may not have the resources to access legal services, and the volunteers’ dedication to pro bono work demonstrates the importance of giving back to those in need.
Please consider joining us at our upcoming clinics:
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:
Thank you AABANY, Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee, VNS Chinatown Community Center, and our dedicated volunteers for volunteering on February 18, 2023 at the Manhattan Pro Bono Clinic! We met 24 clients and discussed issues relating to housing, divorces, and guardianships.
Clients’ surveys included the following feedback:
“These services are much in need for the non-English speaking community.”
“Very happy thx services I got.”
“The lawyers were very nice and professional! Thank you!”
Please consider joining us at our upcoming clinics:
On January 7, 2023, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), and dedicated volunteers staffed the Pro Bono Clinic at AAFE’s Flushing Community Center in Queens, New York.
The clinic met with 14 clients who had questions about tort, contracts, and housing laws.
Clients who filled out the clinic’s satisfaction surveys remarked:
“Hope there are more of these activities. Helps the community greatly.”
“Extremely grateful! Thank you guys very much.”
Volunteering attorneys have asked clinic staffers about how to learn more about areas of law in which they do not practice. The best way to learn about new, developing areas of the law is from other attorneys. AABANY’s Pro Bono clinics are a great chance to connect with other attorneys.
For law students and law school graduates seeking to complete the 50 pro bono hours requirement, remember to reach out to clinic staffers to learn about the requirement fulfillment process and other ongoing projects at email@example.com.
Thank you Eugene Kim, co-chair of the Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee, for bringing the wealthy cupcakes (fat go) to share with the volunteers!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 November 19, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Services Committee and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) joined forces to hold a pro bono legal clinic at AAFE’s One Flushing Community Center in Queens.
This Saturday’s clinic used a multitude of digital and analog resources to provide top-notch services. We creatively used a hybrid Zoom call setup to bring in immigration attorneys (Jackson Chin and Judy Lee) and maintain a non-stop stream of consultations. One group of attorneys helped a client find actionable steps forward from his complex legal status, providing him with additional resources and referrals. AAFE generously made its printer and xerox machines available, which were critical in handling the larger-than-usual volume of Spanish-speaking clients we saw on Saturday. We were able to print out Spanish-language brochures about asylum, immigration eligibility for public benefits in New York State, and pro bono referrals.
AABANY Legal Intern Daniel Kang reflected on the work he witnessed at the Clinic: “Every attorney who volunteered their time on Saturday was deeply and professionally invested in the problems facing clients. I had the opportunity to shadow and complete intake forms for consultations held by Jackson Chin and Judy Lee. It was incredible seeing Jackson and Judy drill to the legal substance of each client’s case by asking the right questions and bringing their own legal expertise to the fore. I was also heartened by the presence of Spanish-speaking volunteer interpreters who successfully broke through the language barrier between volunteer attorneys and locally based clients.”
Not many of the attorneys who attended Saturday’s clinic practice immigration law or speak Spanish. Immigration law is a complicated practice area which changes with each Presidential administration. A 30-minute legal consultation may not help those in dire need of immigration legal services, but clinics like AABANY’s may be a client’s best hope. Immigrant clients come to AABANY consultations in their attempts at acquiring information about the legal process, updates in immigration policy, how to survive in New York, and legal referrals. As usual, AABANY welcomes any and all practicing attorneys across the city to sign up for future clinics—as well as non-attorney volunteers who can speak Spanish or Chinese. Free lunch is provided to all volunteers at our clinics.
AABANY thanks everyone again for coming to volunteer at Saturday’s clinic! Please join us at our upcoming clinics:
On October 15, 2022, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee held a Pro Bono Clinic at the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn from 12:00-3:30 PM.
In all, we met with 22 clients who had questions about contracts, fraud, housing, wills, trusts, and estates. Our volunteers are constantly learning and teaching one another. Many of this clinic’s volunteer force were law students or recent law school graduates, who put their memory of basic skills such as issue-spotting through the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) method to real-world use. We were also able to refer many clients to not-for-profit legal services to further help their case beyond the time constraints of our clinic session. Last, but not least, our volunteers demonstrated exceptional professionalism with the 4 C’s in mind: competency, confidentiality, conflict of interest, and compassion.
AABANY Legal Interns Daniel Kang and Connor Li recounted their experiences at the clinic. Daniel said, “Many clients came in with issues regarding estate and housing law. It was great having the chance to shadow attorneys like Kwok, May, and Johnny, and to see how their legal knowledge can be used to help people in their everyday lives. I sat in on a session where one client did not come with a particular issue, but with an information request regarding the drafting of a will—and the benefits of creating one. Attorney May Wong carefully explained the concept of a will, the legal challenges which might be confronted and avoided through the creation of one, and helped the client walk away with knowledge of a legal concept that will undoubtedly impact their family.”
Connor had a similar experience when sitting in on the consultations. He said, “I sat in on a session where attorney Johnny Thach was able to help a couple find the available resources to resolve their landlord-tenant issues. Especially for non-English speakers, and even for those of us that speak English as our native language, legal terminology can be confusing. For this couple, the resources we found online were filled with legal jargon, so it was great to see Johnny clearly articulate the issues and next steps in words that even I was able to understand.”
Thank you to all the volunteers who helped out this past Saturday. Your extra help was truly appreciated!
Interpreters & Shadowers
Kwok Kei Ng
Yiru (Lea) Jiang
Ming Chu (Judy) Lee
Please join us at our upcoming Pro Bono Clinics!
October 29 – registration closed at noon on 10/26 [remote option not available]
Manhattan Location – 33 Bowery, Community Room at Confucius Plaza, New York, NY 10002
November 19 – please register by 12pm, 11/16 [remote option available for NYS admitted attorneys only]
Queens Location – AAFE One Flushing Community Center, 133-29 41st Ave, 2nd Floor, Flushing, NY 11355
AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee would like to thank all in-person and remote volunteers at the Flushing Clinic on February 26, 2022. PBCS is especially grateful to the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) for hosting this clinic at their Community Center, for providing the coffee and snacks to keep participants alert and energized, and for the staff to interpret for the Spanish-speaking clients.
The clinic began at 11:00 AM with attorneys quickly being split up into three rooms to prep for the arrival of clients, with other volunteers preparing documents that needed to be handed out and information that needed to be collected. The clinic assisted 17 clients facing a variety of issues from tenant disputes, domestic violence, marriage and divorce, and loans and contracts.
With the help of AAFE and AABANY translators, clients with limited English proficiency were able to find the aid they needed from volunteer attorneys who were able to understand the nuances and emotions of their situations. For example, one client who only spoke Mandarin, had a temporary order of protection made against her by a family member, but the order was limited. Under the order, the client was permitted to return to the apartment, but the family member refused to let her back in. Many factors go into the enforcement of orders of protection, and it would be difficult in the limited time available for consultations at the clinic to fully analyze a given situation. However, the two volunteer attorneys assigned to help this client assisted her to the extent they could, pointing her towards other resources, and alerting her about specific laws that could apply to her situation.
This clinic could not have been possible without the gracious help of many AABANY members and committees. A special thank you to May Wong, a current Vice-Chair of PBCS, for organizing these Pro Bono Clinics, Eugene Kim, another Vice-Chair of PBCS, for serving as an attorney volunteer, and Committee Chair Judy Lee, for helping to prep the paperwork, attending the Prep Meeting the night before (2/25), and appearing virtually to advise clients. Additionally, thank you to Beatrice Leong, AABANY’s Membership Director and long time Pro Bono Clinic participant, for guiding newer volunteers, consoling a domestic violence victim, and assisting as a volunteer; Meng Zhang, for helping to translate and helping with the organization of the clinic; Evelyn Gong, Co-Chair of the Government Service and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee, for serving as an attorney volunteer, and Kevin Hsi, also a Co-Chair of GSPI, for serving as a volunteer.
PBCS greatly appreciates the law students from Columbia University who were able to attend and observe the clinics as part of their Caravan, a program in which law students spend their spring break working on pro bono projects.
AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee would like to thank everyone who attended the second and third hybrid Manhattan pro bono clinics in September and October, as well as the soft opening of the Queens pro bono clinic this past Saturday, Oct. 30. The three clinics assisted a total of fifty-five (55) clients, who sought advice on a range of topics, including housing law, immigration, elder law, loans and contracts, marriage and divorce, estates law and drafting of wills and powers of attorney, discrimination, 9/11 compensation, and fraud. PBCS and AABANY are grateful to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) for co-sponsoring and hosting these clinics.
The clinics for the past two months could not have happened without the gracious help of many AABANY members and committees. During the September pro bono clinic, in collaboration with AABANY’s Bankruptcy Committee, PBCS provided a “Know Your Rights” presentation on the topic of bankruptcy and consumer debt. During the October clinics, Rina Gurung and Kevin Hsi, two of the three co-chairs of AABANY’s Government Service and Public Interest Committee, and Zhixian (Jessie) Liu, a co-chair of AABANY’s Immigration Committee, helped PBCS out by volunteering to see clients for one-on-one informational consultations. Thanks to AABANY’s Committees for their camaraderie!
At the pro bono clinics, PBCS volunteers use quick issue-spotting skills to help members of the AAPI community and those with limited English proficiency know what their rights are. For instance, while answering housing questions, a volunteer discovered that a 70-year-old couple living at a rent-stabilized apartment was eligible for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exception (SCRIE). SCRIE is a program that allows qualified tenants to have their rent frozen at their current level and be exempt from future rent increases. This is crucial since most seniors depend on their fixed income. If their rent goes up, qualified SCRIE tenants do not have to pay the higher rent, as the City will pay the landlord the difference between the current rent and the future rent. The 70-year-old couple who came into the PBCS clinic will receive assistance from AAFE to apply for SCRIE.
In order to be eligible for SCRIE, an applicant must be 62 years or older, have less than $50,000 in household income, spend more than 1/3 of monthly income on rent, and reside in a NYC rent-stabilized apartment, rent-controlled apartment, rent-regulated hotel or single room occupancy unit, Mitchell-Lama development, Limited Dividend Housing Company development, Redevelopment Company development, or Housing Development Fund Company development. Senior citizens who own homes, condominiums or private non-government supervised co-ops may also be eligible for SCRIE. To learn more about SCRIE, see https://access.nyc.gov/programs/senior-citizens-rent-increase-exemption-%E2%80%8Bscrie/.
To learn more about the PBCS Committee and its work, click here and here. The next hybrid legal clinics will take place on Saturday, November 6, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at AAFE, 2 Allen Street (2nd Floor), New York, NY 10002; and Saturday, November 13, 2021, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at CCBA, 62 Mott Street (2nd Floor), New York, NY 10013. For up-to-date details about the clinic and other events, please check PBCS’s event calendar.
And as always, we are always looking for volunteers to help us out!
On Saturday, September 4, 2021, the Student Outreach Committee and the Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) returned to Asian and Asian American communities across New York City to promote PBCS’s newly-back in person Pro Bono Clinic and AABANY’s COVID-19 Legal Know-Your-Rights Resources as well as AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS).
The Brooklyn Chinatown volunteers were led by May Wong, Judy Lee and Kwok Ng of the PBCS Committee, the Koreatown volunteers were led by Victor Roh and Will Lee, a key leader and organizer of last year’s event, and the Manhattan Chinatown volunteers were led by Nicholas Loh and Dianna Lam, another key leader and organizer of last year’s event.
This campaign built off the energy and momentum of the initial flyering campaign held last year over the July 4 holiday weekend, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This year’s campaign saw the addition of another community, Brooklyn Chinatown, and included over 40 volunteers from AABANY and law schools across the Greater New York area.
The results were impressive. Over 1,000 flyers in Chinese, Korean and English were distributed to local small businesses promoting AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic, Know-Your-Rights information, and the LRIS. Our student volunteers had meaningful opportunities to interact with small business owners who have been hit hard by a staggering two years of anti-Asian hate and violence, COVID-19 business disruptions, and the devastating impact on Asian businesses as a result of xenophobia and racism.
This event would not have been possible without the co-sponsorship of AABANY’s Student Outreach Committee, AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, AABANY’s Young Lawyers Committee, Asian Americans for Equality, APALSAs from all across the Greater New York area and Mayer Brown.
On March 9, 2021, Fordham Law News published an article spotlighting the role that Fordham Law students have played in spearheading AABANY’s Covid Rent Relief Program. Olympia Moy ‘21 and Meng Zhang ’20 kickstarted AABANY’s volunteer effort last summer, after New York State launched a rent relief program to assist residents who had lost income due to the pandemic. Concerned about low-income Chinatown-area residents, many of whom did not speak English as their first language, Moy and Zhang worked with other AABANY law students and attorneys to hold a one-day rent assistance event. On July 26, the volunteers helped 125 pre-registrants and many walk-ins navigate the challenging application process. When the state’s rent relief program opened its second round of applications in the winter, AABANY volunteers teamed up again to disseminate the program information and invite applicants to contact AABANY’s hotline for assistance. Nicholas Loh ‘22 helped lead this two-week hotline effort, connecting over 85 callers with Chinese-speaking volunteers.
The article celebrated the recognition that these students and AABANY members have received from four New York state senators. At a Lunar New Year virtual celebration in February, Sen. Brian Kavanagh awarded AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee with a certificate of commendation for providing invaluable legal assistance to the AAPI community. Looking into the future, Moy states: “We students are going to continue to try to respond as long as there are further rollouts and extensions.” To learn more about the advocacy efforts of Moy and her fellow AABANY volunteers, click here.