For the second year in a row, Brennan, Manna and Diamond LLC is partnering with Community Legal Aid to become a law firm on wheels for low-income Summit County residents.
Last year, 75 residents obtained free legal advice on any civil issue from volunteer attorneys at Mason Community Learning Center in Akron’s Middlebury neighborhood.
This year’s pro bono legal advice clinic will be held March 23 at Mason.
BMD, a full-service, Akron-based law firm, has been seeking innovative ways to expand its pro bono efforts.
“Our goal was essentially to adopt a neighborhood,” BMD Partner Michael Steel said. “We wanted to help a local community in need near our downtown Akron offices, so our attorneys could feel a close connection to the difference they were making by listening, solving and empowering people’s lives.”
Steel co-chairs BMD’s pro-bono committee with fellow firm partner Duriya Dhinojwala, who is also a member of Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees.
“BMD is very much an Akron-based law firm,” Dhinojwala said. “We have deep roots in the community. We want to reach out to people who can’t afford lawyers. Last year, we ended an hour and a half late to accommodate people. It was very successful.”
The Mason center was chosen due to its central location, but the program is not limited to those in the neighborhood.
Volunteer attorneys will be available to discuss issues involving bankruptcy, custody and visitation, employment, divorce, foreclosures and evictions, guardianship, housing conditions, name changes, powers of attorney, protection orders, special education, taxes, will and estate planning.
“It’s just like seeing a private client in our law firm,” said Dhinojwala, whose practice focuses on immigration, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights. “We help them with their legal problems. Each attorney will mark the areas they’re interested in. I do immigration. I also take all the collection questions.”
Attorneys will also be on hand for expungement and criminal record sealing questions, but will not be able to help with criminal or traffic charges.
Community Legal Aid Executive Director Steven McGarrity said such partnered projects are making an impact for Akron residents. Community Legal Aid is a non-profit law firm serving people in central and northeast Ohio.
“The real value behind this joint project is that we have so many more people who come to us for help than we have the actual resources to be able to take on,” McGarrity said. “But with BMD bringing their attorneys, we can help more people together.”
Lorraine Signore, director of marketing at BMD, called the joint effort a new approach to increase the outreach and accessibility of those seeking legal counsel.
“We’re happy to be good community partners,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to give back.”
The event is open to any low-income Summit County resident. Those interested can register by calling Legal Aid’s helpline at (800) 998-9454. Walk-ins will also be welcome, but registration is strongly encouraged.
The Neighborhood Law Clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 23 at Mason CLC, 700 E. Exchange St. in Akron.
For more information, visit www.communitylegalaid.org/events.
Akron Legal News, Tracey Blair, Published March 21, 2019