Butzel Long, area law students help clients navigate paternity issues at June 25 clinic


– Photo courtesy of Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation

Attorney Alexander DeWitt (left) of Butzel Long consults with client William Lucas (right) as summer associate Haley Jonna listens.

Indigent clients in need of help with paternity and child support issues started finding answers at a recent free legal clinic coordinated by the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation (DMBAF).

That help came primarily from attorneys and summer associates from Butzel Long and seven law students from Lakeshore Legal Aid Clinic during a June 25 event at Detroit's Fellowship Chapel Banquet and Conference Center.

The clinic was organized by the DMBAF in partnership with the Wayne County Self-Help Center, the Third Circuit Court, the Lakeshore Legal Aid Clinic, and the Wayne County Legal Resources Consortium. Before meeting individually with attorneys, clients were given an overview of Michigan paternity and child support-related law by a panel of professionals from the Wayne County Friend of the Court's office.

According to Laura Johnson of Butzel Long, taking time out for pro-bono efforts like the June 25 clinic is just one example of her firm's belief in community service.

"Butzel is always open to pro-bono work," she explained. "We believe it's important to give back to the community by sharing our knowledge and experience and clinics like this are a great opportunity to really interact with clients and see how we can make a difference."

According to DMBAF Access to Justice Administrator Dennis Donahue, clinics like the one on June 25 are an essential service.

"Virtually everyone will need an attorney's advice at least once in their lives but sadly, too many of our neighbors just can't afford us," Donahue explained. "But in the long run, serving these clients makes the entire system function better not just for the indigent clients, but for the judicial system that's trying to serve them."

Donahue also expressed his gratitude to the volunteer attorneys and students who gave their time at the clinic.

"Pro-bono work is one of the cornerstones of our profession. Sadly, though, it can be easy to lose sight of that fact in the rush to accumulate billable hours," he said. "However, Butzel Long definitely stands out as a firm that's committed to giving back to our community."

"We also, deeply, appreciate the Wayne State law students who took time from their studies to come out today," he added. Yes, these clinics give them valuable hands-on experience but they could get that from internships. Coming here instead is a real testament to their character."

For their part, the clients who attended were also grateful for the services they received.

"This clinic was a big help if I had known before what the attorneys told me today, this issue would have been long over with," said clinic participant Robert Cross.

Another client, William Lucas, agreed. "This was like getting all the advice the court can give without having to go to court," he said. "It was much more relaxed."

The June 25 effort was just the latest one for the DMBAF, which has been organizing free monthly legal clinics since February of this year. More than eighty clients have been assisted with issues ranging from landlord-tenant disagreements to having non-violent offenses expunged (deleted) from their records. Local attorneys are encouraged to volunteer; contact Dennis Donahue at 313-961-6120, ext. 214 or ddonahue@detroitlawyer.org for details.

In addition to the Detroit Legal Services clinics, the DMBAF supports a diverse mix of programming and advocacy including Access to Justice initiatives and For The Seventh Generation (www.fortheseventhgeneration.org), which matches donations of services and goods to needy foster children, families, and teens in the metro Detroit area.

The Foundation's 11th annual Dennis W. Archer Award for Public Service will be presented to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald E. Rosen,Eastern District of Michigan, and retired Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Sponsorship opportunities are available; call Executive Director Lorraine Weber at 313-961-6120, ext. 206 for details.

For additional information about the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association and its Foundation, visit www.detroitlawyer.org or call 313-961-6120, ext. 206. For more information about For The Seventh Generation, visit www.fortheseventhgeneration.org.

Published: Wed, Jul 22, 2015


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