Ulmer & Berne Works with Legal Aid to Prevent Homelessness
Ulmer & Berne has pledged $60,000 and volunteer time to Legal Aid’s Private Tenant-Landlord Project. For low-income people facing homelessness, legal representation is often the difference between living in a home and being on the street.
The need for legal services is overwhelming, and Legal Aid’s Housing Unit focuses mostly on cases involving government-subsidized housing. However, the limited availability of subsidized housing often drives low-income people to the private market and unscrupulous landlords. Evictions destabilize families, resulting in lost jobs, abandoned household property, and disruption in education and community ties.
Michael N. Ungar, Ulmer & Berne Partner and President-Elect of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, was instrumental in forging the partnership between his firm and Legal Aid. He notes, “Money’s important, but there is something more when you can contribute a skill set. People don’t have money for legal services, and it’s important the legal community step up and do something about it.”
Harold (Kip) Reader, Managing Partner, adds that Ulmer & Berne supports “organizations whose missions we value and with whom we have an active relationship through our attorneys.” In February, Ulmer & Berne volunteer attorneys attended a training run by Peter Iskin, Managing Attorney of Legal Aid’s Housing Unit.
Ulmer & Berne partner Jennifer Lawry Adams says the Private-Tenant Landlord project allows both organizations to achieve complementary goals: Ulmer & Berne associates get hands-on courtroom experience and opportunities to “think quickly on their feet” while helping those most in need. Additionally “volunteer attorneys expand Legal Aid’s ability to help more individuals in need,” says Ann McGowan Porath, Managing Attorney for Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program.
The recent pledge of $60,000 over three years also continues a strong philanthropic relationship between Ulmer & Berne and Legal Aid. In 2008, Ulmer & Berne marked its 100th Anniversary with a $100,000 gift. Additionally, Legal Aid will work with Ulmer & Berne to identify systemic issues including court procedures, chronically negligent landlords and trends in causes of eviction.
Other law firms in addition to Ulmer & Berne have pledged considerable pro bono support to the Private Tenant-Landlord Project, including Jones Day, Calfee Halter & Griswold, Hahn Loeser + Parks, and Thompson Hine. Legal Aid initiated the Private Tenant-Landlord Project in 2008 with pilot support from the Charter One Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation and United Way of Greater Cleveland. Today, the Project is funded by the Charter One Foundation, the Cleveland Tenants Organization (through ARRA), Eva L. and Joseph M. Bruening Foundation, Murphy Family Foundation and United Way.