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JUSTICE FOR ALL: Not Just a Concept, a Celebration!

Chris McGrath & Gary Wright (L to R): SDVLP president elect and Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP partner Chris McGrath and Gary Wright of Law Firm of the Year Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP

Each year, San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program hosts two iconic events — LAF-Off (Lawyers Are Funny) and the Justice For All Celebration. LAF-Off is a truly unique experience where lawyers perform stand-up comedy routines, often at the expense of their profession. The sell-out engagement is a must-attend event on the spring fundraising line-up.

The Justice for All Celebration is a who’s who event that showcases the best of San Diego’s legal community. This year’s Celebration was held on September 13 and brought together more than 300 attendees at the San Diego Museum of Man. The evening was a great reminder of the strong commitment San Diego lawyers make to pro bono service.

SDVLP helps approximately  5,500 clients each year, and relies annually on more than 400 volunteer lawyers, law students, paralegals and other legal professionals to deliver services to our neighbors in need.  And the needs are great.  With women and children making up 85 percent of SDVLP’s clients, volunteers deal with domestic violence, custody and guardianship, HIV/AIDS discrimination and much more.

This year’s Justice for All Celebration honored three important contributors to SDVLP.

August Larsen of AJL Litigation Media Inc. was presented with SDVLP’s Community Service Award by Amy Fitzpatrick, executive director of SDVLP.  For seven years, Larsen has produced videos and provided a variety of support to SDVLP.  He is a volunteer who “always stepped up to offer his services and carried them out, even when ill,” according to Fitzpatrick. As Larson humbly accepted the award, he reflected that working with SDVLP is an “opportunity to show kindness, and it has been a privilege and pleasure to work with the organization.”

Chris McGrath, vice president and president-elect of SDVLP’s board of directors, presented the Law Firm of the

Amy Fitzpatrick & August Larsen: SDVLP executive director and Community Service Award honoree August Larsen of AJL Litigation Media Inc.

Year Award to Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, noting that the firm has provided lawyers, paralegals, secretaries and translators to SDVLP. Gary Wright, a partner with the firm, said that is was a “personal pleasure to receive the award” and that the San Diego community is “blessed by SDVLP’s staff.”

In addition to utilizing hundreds of volunteers, SDVLP has a staff of 23 who run the organization’s legal clinics, assess and assist clients and coordinate volunteers, as well as provide direct legal representation in numerous areas of law.

SDVLP staff attorney Bhashini Weerasinghe, who oversees the organization’s HIV/AIDS Law Project, presented the final award– Attorney of the Year – to long-time SDVLP volunteer and bankruptcy attorney Gary Holt.  Weerasinghe noted that Holt has transformed the lives of hundreds of SDVLP clients by lifting the financial burden brought on by HIV/AIDS. Holt told the audience he was “honored to be recognized for things I love to do.”

A former SDVLP client, Lance Romero, spoke of the significant difference Holt had made in his life and encouraged the attendees to get involved with SDVLP by taking on at least one case each year or by donating to the organization.

Outgoing SDVLP board president Jeff Isaacs was also honored for his years of leadership with SDVLP.  Isaacs, a partner with Procopio, will step down from the presidency of SDVLP at the end of this year, but will remain on its board of directors.

Gary Holt & Friends (L to R): SDVLP staff attorney Bhashini Weerasinghe, SDVLP client Lance Romero, Attorney of the Year Gary Holt, ad SDVLP pro bono coordinator Marisa Gard Rastetter.

For those who attended the Justice for All Celebration, the evening was a great reminder of the important role of pro bono services in our community.  With court services being drastically cut, those without legal representation have fewer resources. This increased need puts further pressure on SDVLP.  Attorneys and related service providers can help by volunteering as Lance Romero suggested - by taking on at least one case per year. Also, SDVLP is always grateful for financial donations.

Yet another way to support SDVLP is to attend the organization’s next event, LAF-Off, on March 21, 2013 at the House of Blues. For more information, please visit www.sdvlp.org.

Teresa Warren

Teresa Warren, President of TW2 Marketing, Inc.

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About the Author: Teresa Warren, President of TW2 Marketing, Inc.

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