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How to Handle Your First Pro Bono Case in New York 2016

Speaker(s): Adam Heintz, Izukanne Emeagwali, Jennifer K. Brown, Louis S. Sartori, Rossalyn K. Quaye
Recorded on: Apr. 7, 2016
PLI Program #: 149659

“YES! We can help with that.”

Across the top of the whiteboard hanging in Lou Sartori’s office are the watchwords of Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Practice. Whether through individual representation of an at-risk client, answering calls on the Access to Benefits Helpline, or bringing groundbreaking civil rights litigation, the Pro Bono Practice provides over two thousand volunteers from major New York City law firms with training, supervision and mentorship which allow them to deliver life changing legal assistance to a multitude of Legal Aid clients each year.

Prior to joining the Pro Bono Practice, Lou was the Attorney-in-Charge of the Society's Manhattan and Staten Island Juvenile Rights Practice offices, supervising staff representing thousands of court involved youth and oversaw the initiation of programs focusing on literacy and the needs of adolescents transitioning from foster care. He previously served on the First Department Family Court Advisory Committee and was an Adjunct Professor at St. John's University School of Law. A frequent presenter at the ABA’s Equal Justice and other national conferences, Lou also co-chairs the Practicing Law Institute’s annual Ethical Issues in Pro Bono Representation program. Lou is a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Coordinators Network, The Public Interest Pro Bono Association (PIPBA), and the New York City Bar Association Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services.

Since his appointment as Director in 2011, Lou has worked closely with Society staff in developing pro bono projects benefitting trafficking survivors, senior citizens, immigrants, LGBT communities and residents of public housing. Increased participation by attorneys from in-house legal departments and other corporate professionals helped expand the number of clients served. As a result, each week Legal Aid staff call with new ideas and requests for assistance. The answer is always the same:

“YES! We can help with that.”

Adam Heintz is Legal Services NYC's Director of Pro Bono. Adam creates and manages pro bono projects that focus on the essential civil legal needs of low income New Yorkers, including housing, immigration, education, consumer, and benefits. He works with nearly 100 large law firms and corporations to serve thousands of low income clients each year. Adam is also a founding member of the Public Interest Pro Bono Association (PIPBA), and he speaks frequently at national conferences about pro bono.

Prior to joining LSNYC, Adam spent six years as a litigation associate at Morrison & Foerster, LLP, where he maintained an active pro bono docket. He clerked for the Hon. Cheryl L. Pollak, in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York. He has served on the Pro Bono Advisory Council for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. Adam is also a founding member of the Brooklyn Family Defense Project’s Associate Advisory Board. Previously, Mr. Heintz was employed as the HIV-Related Violence Program Coordinator at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. Mr. Heintz received his B.A. from Oberlin College, and J.D. from NYU Law School.

Izu Emeagwali, a sixth-year associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP, is currently on a secondment to MFY Legal Services working in the Housing Program.

Ms. Emeagwali’s practice at Cleary Gottlieb focuses on litigation, including commercial, intellectual property, and antitrust litigation.  Ms. Emeagwali has worked on government enforcement matters, including antitrust and securities investigations involving the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and U.K. Serious Fraud Office and advised clients on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Also, she has analyzed potential mergers and acquisitions for shareholder lawsuits and general litigation risks and potential violations of the FCPA and antitrust laws.

Ms. Emeagwali is a member of Cleary Gottlieb’s pro bono committee and the secretary of the International Human Rights Committee for the New York City Bar Association.

As an active member in the firm’s pro bono practice, Ms. Emeagwali has led teams of associates in various international human rights and policy pro bono cases focusing on African states.  For example, Ms. Emeagwali has researched and drafted a legal memorandum analyzing gender perspectives and the protection of women in African states and proposed recommendations to implement supportive programs and laws to help women thrive in a particular African state.  Ms. Emeagwali has analyzed and drafted reports of several west-African states’ compliance with international laws, including those concerning war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.  Ms. Emeagwali has also provided recommendations regarding international criminal law and jurisprudence for a nascent international war court.

Further, as part of her pro bono practice, Ms. Emeagwali led a litigation team in a New York City Housing Authority administrative hearing on behalf of a client who asserted succession rights.  She has also worked on vacating the convictions of sex trafficked victims, assisted with settling a section 1983 excessive force case, and revised bylaws and drafted a conflict of interest policy for a non-profit theater production company.

In her current role as a staff attorney at MFY Legal Services, Ms. Emeagwali represents and advises New Yorkers in various housing matters.

From September 2010 through August 2011, Ms. Emeagwali worked as a law firm fellow in the Fair Housing Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.

Ms. Emeagwali received a J.D. degree, magna cum laude, from Howard University School of Law in 2010 and a B.S.E. in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005.

Jennifer K. Brown is Senior Pro Bono Counsel for Morrison & Foerster.  Based in the firm’s New York office, she is responsible for directing MoFo’s widely-recognized program of providing free legal services to low-income individuals, to nonprofit organizations, and in matters that serve the public interest.  Jennifer’s own pro bono work at the firm includes directing a groundbreaking effort to win humanitarian parole in the United States for Haitian women victimized by rape in post-earthquake encampments and serving on the legal team that negotiated extensive reforms to the practice of solitary confinement in New York State prisons.

Jennifer previously served as vice president and legal director of Legal Momentum, a national women’s rights organization; as the Reproductive Rights Unit director in the New York State Attorney General’s office; and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. A graduate of Yale Law School, she clerked for the Honorable Pierre Leval and was a Fellow in the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Rossalyn K. Quaye is a dynamic energy professional. She is currently the executive advisor to the US Chief Financial Officer at National Grid, one of the world's largest public utilities focused on electric and gas transmission and distribution activities in the northeast US. The company delivers approximately $14 billion dollars in US revenues and manages $20 billion in US assets.

Ms. Quaye was previously a regulatory attorney at Consolidated Edison Company of New York. There, she advised the business on electric and gas tariff-related matters, customer service issues, and retail rate change filings. She was also the co-coordinator of the Con Edison Legal Services pro bono program. In that capacity, she helped to launch the program and continued to plan and promote pro bono opportunities for all attorneys and legal support staff at Con Edison and its affiliates.

She earned her JD/MBA at Fordham University School of Law in 2013.  She also holds a BSE in chemical engineering, and a BSE in materials science & engineering, from the University of Michigan. 

Prior to starting her legal career, Ms. Quaye was a classically trained dancer. She completed the certificate program at The Ailey School and performed with a modern dance company. She balances her professional pursuits with dance classes and practicing Bikram yoga.