“Attorneys have the skills and abilities. Why not give back to someone who would not be able to afford it otherwise?”
- Amy Lorenzini
It seems as though Amy Lorenzini, an Associate at Cumberland & Erly, LLP, for seven years, president of the Calvert County Bar Association, secretary of her son’s parent-teacher organization, and a mother of two young children, would not have the time to provide pro bono legal services.
That could not be further from the truth.
Lorenzini has served as the chairperson of the Calvert County Pro Bono Committee for the past five years, screening pro bono cases and placing clients with volunteer attorneys. She runs the Pro Se Family Law Clinic at the Circuit Court for Calvert County, volunteering many hours of her own time staffing the clinic and covering in emergencies. Additionally, Lorenzini places five pro bono cases at a minimum each year with other attorneys and takes at least as many family law pro bono cases annually herself.
When asked why she tackles pro bono work on top of her already busy schedule, Lorenzini’ s response is simply, “Why not?”
She explains: “Asking ‘why’ is the wrong question. You have to ask ‘why not?’ You [attorneys] have the skills and abilities. Why not give back to someone who would not be able to afford it otherwise?”
And giving back is exactly what Lorenzini did with “Sarah”, a woman in Calvert County who needed a pro bono attorney to represent her in a third-party custody case several years ago. Sarah cared for a friend’s grandson since birth while simultaneously taking care of her own young and college-aged children. When the drug-addicted biological mother of the child applied for custody, Sarah was frantic. She knew that she was the most suitable guardian for the young boy, but acknowledged that she could not afford an attorney to ensure his safety. That’s when Lorenzini stepped in.
Lorenzini filed a motion to intervene the day before the courts closed for judicial conference. She spent the day fighting for Sarah to remain the child’s guardian. One day of litigation turned into a year and a half custody battle. When she was finally awarded full custody 18 months later, the boy’s principal, teachers, therapists, and even the judge thanked Sarah for being such a diligent caregiver and exemplar guardian. Lorenzini was able to walk away from court that day knowing that all of the work she put into protecting the guardianship of a young boy was worth it.
Although not all cases have fairytale endings, Lorenzini concedes that helping Sarah is one of the most rewarding experiences thus far in her career. In fact, she has kept in touch with Sarah over the years and has seen that little boy grow up into a productive citizen. The success of this young man is not only due to Sarah’s exceptional guardianship, but also to the willingness of an attorney to provide pro bono counsel.
From Lorenzini’s perspective, taking a pro bono case is ultimately a rewarding endeavor. “Most people are very appreciative after a case is completed, regardless of the outcome, because they know that they had someone who was willing to fight for them,” states Lorenzini.
For more information on volunteer legal service opportunities in Maryland, contact Jennifer Larrabee at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carey Moore is the Communications Manager of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.