Posted October 4, 20239:00 am
Legal Aid volunteers are supported by terrific staff at Legal Aid, here to help pro bono attorneys every step of the way! Learn here the #MyLegalAidStory of Bobbi Saltzman - a Senior Attorney in the Volunteer Lawyers Program and Intake Department at Legal Aid --
Before entering her first year of Cleveland State University’s College of Law, Bobbi Saltzman knew she wanted to do public interest law.
Bobbi can remember clearly the first weekend before her classes started when a professor told her about volunteer opportunities for law students. Her ears perked up when they mentioned an upcoming Legal Aid Brief Clinic. But one incident almost stopped her dead in her tracks – the day before the Brief Clinic she fractured her femur. She was restricted to crutches and, being new to Cleveland, she felt nervous asking for assistance in getting around. She almost thought about not attending but decided to tough it out. The day of the clinic she was matched with a client who decided, as he waited for his turn to be seen, to write her a poem on his Legal Aid folder to thank her for listening to him and helping him get assistance. Bobbi was hooked.
“Volunteering at that Brief Clinic was an immediate way for me to see the connection between what I would be learning in the classroom, and how it would help me assist others,” said Bobbi. “It was encouraging to know that I was making an impact and that what I learned in class could be applied in a practical way.”
Bobbi later became a summer associate at Legal Aid in the Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) and Intake department.
After graduating, Bobbi worked as a staff attorney in a large corporation, but something was missing.
“I wanted to do meaningful work that would allow me to assist people in need full time,” she said. Bobbi eventually came back to Legal Aid as a full-time attorney on the Housing Group’s Right to Counsel team.
Now Bobbi is a Senior Attorney in the VLP/Intake Department, and working on the Lawyers Advocating for Safe Housing project, funded by the Legal Services Corporation’s Pro Bono Innovations Fund. Bobbi enjoys collaborating with volunteers who want to improve housing conditions in the community, and working with volunteers at Brief Advice Clinics and other Legal Aid outreach events. She finds it rewarding to be out in the community and various neighborhoods helping clients and volunteers get successful results.
Bobbi encourages attorneys to do pro bono work. “I know that many people are nervous about assisting people in areas of law that they are not as familiar with, but Legal Aid supports volunteers at every level and has a bank of resources.”
She can recall meeting a volunteer attorney who had no prior volunteer experience with directly representing tenants. He was eventually matched up with a client that was having housing conditions issues – an area in which he had no expertise. Because of the support that he received from Legal Aid staff, he was able to negotiate a settlement with the client’s landlord that provided the tenant with compensation for having to live with the conditions and allowed for the conditions to be corrected.
“It was great to see how the volunteer went through the entire process that ended with a great result.”
Bobbi stresses that it is necessary and needful for clients to have assistance and that’s why volunteers are important at Legal Aid Clinics.
“Every little bit helps,” she said.