Richard D. Petrulis, Esq. is Legal Aid’s New Board President

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Board President Rick Petrulis volunteers at a Legal Aid advice clinic alongside pro bono attorneys from KeyBank and Thompson Hine.

 

As a small boy, Rick Petrulis’ family of seven lived in a rundown two-bedroom apartment with unreliable heat and no yard. When his family could afford to move to a four-bedroom home in Wickliffe, he remembers what a difference it made to have a comfortable and safe place to live.

With his home life secure, he went on to graduate from John Carroll University. Working during the day as a law clerk, he attended Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at night. Years later, as an attorney with KeyBank, his manager suggested he apply his experience as an Employee Benefit Trust attorney to volunteering with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. His personal experience came flooding back as he knew Legal Aid provides better lives for families: a comfortable home, safety from violence and access to a good education.

As Mr. Petrulis became more involved with Legal Aid, a chance encounter with a woman he met at a brief advice clinic made an indelible impression. The deplorable conditions of her apartment caused physical problems and she ended up living in a women’s shelter. There were tears in her eyes after the conversation with the volunteer attorney who spent so much time helping her find a new place to live.

“There is a sense of fairness and fair play that has always been part of American culture. Lawyers have the skills to secure justice and help people build a better life,” Mr. Petrulis says. As Mr. Petrulis begins his term as president of Legal Aid’s board of directors for 2014, he hopes to spread the message of Legal Aid’s mission to the legal community: “the results of a legal dispute should not be dictated solely by whether or not a person can afford legal representation.”

Retired from KeyBank after 30 years, Mr. Petrulis lives in Westlake with his wife, Dr. Alice Petrulis, who also works with vulnerable populations at Cleveland MetroHealth.

“My hope this year is to be a catalyst to channel all the energy of the board members. If we can energize the community, we can make this a productive year for Legal Aid,” he says.

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