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Klein (Ret.), Co-Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, invited
López to the podium.
López shared stories about her experiences with pro bono
clients as well as her philosophy. "Pro bono service is poverty
prevention," López said. "Giving people a chance to escape
poverty is a calling all lawyers must heed." She encouraged
attorneys to assess pro bono client needs through the lens of
SARA: Safety + Autonomy + Restoration + Agency. A key
part of that assessment is to ASK clients about their goals in
the matter and to help the client think two steps ahead as it
relates to their goal. "As lawyers, we are uniquely positioned
to explain the permutations of a decision, goal, or plan," she
said. "We should foreshadow the barriers and help the client
determine acceptable ways to mitigate the impact of the
barrier."
"Safety" is ever-present when López thinks of pro bono
clients. "Poverty makes clients more vulnerable to societal
and personal abuses," she said, noting that when a client needs
a Protection from Abuse order or is involved in a custody /
divorce case, that client's safety is highly vulnerable. Even if
the client believes that only s/he, not the children, is at risk,
safety cannot be guaranteed. López spoke about an order for
protection that she and her client carefully crafted, which
required the opposing party to surrender his firearms and his
parents, not the defendant, exchange the children with the
client. The opposing party, however, violated the order and
shot and killed the daughter during a custody exchange. "We
cannot guarantee safety or mitigate all the risk to our pro
bono clients, but having an attorney allowed that plaintiff to
leave an abusive and dangerous partner," she said. "Who is
to say whether the whole family would have been killed had
she stayed with him? Representation gave that client a safety
shield of sorts that worked for her and her son, even if her
daughter did not survive."
"Autonomy is self-determination," according to López. To
illustrate this point, López shared an experience she had with
a pro bono custody client who was a limited English-speaker
and an immigrant. The other parent refused to share custody
of their child in a meaningful way. López' client could not
plan her life, and she was intimidated by the other parent's
controlling efforts. The final straw was the father would not
allow the mother to send their daughter to a better school. The

mother sought custody representation. López worked on her
behalf to gain reliable access to visit her child and to send her
child to a better school.
"Restoration" is key to the client escaping poverty and living
a more autonomous life. López represented a pro bono client
in a discrimination case where the client was treated differently
than co-workers of a different race. She noted that restoring the
client's eligibility for unemployment compensation "was also
part of my job as her pro bono attorney" as well as pursuing
her civil rights case. Putting money back in the client's pocket
is one way to help restore a client's loss. Representation at
the unemployment compensation level served that restorative
function to restore her income stream.
"Agency" is when a person has power and ability to be
who they are even when society's norms and values deter that
individualism. López spoke movingly about Pennsylvania's
lack of legal protections for transgender people and the lack
of agency they have to live and be who they identify as in our
society. Something as simple as helping a transgender person
with a name change can be transformative, it allows that client
to be who they are despite society's opposition. Representing
transgender pro bono clients allows López to help remove
societal barriers and promote opportunities for jobs, housing,
travel, and public life. All of these efforts prevent poverty.
In closing, she made the case for pro bono. "Pro bono is about
one-on-one personal change," López said. "You're the lifeguard
rescuing the drowning person." Big-picture change agents -
addressing public policy and researching how big problems
happen - are important to the legal profession too. López
acknowledged that pro bono service brings change at the micro
level, directly affecting the individual and family. Furthermore,
pro bono service reaches out to people who can be marginalized
by society. "You are the advisor who listens to the goals of the
client and helps them prepare to achieve those goals," she said.
"It's part of a long-term strategy that considers safety, autonomy,
restoration and agency."
continued on page 20

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Delco re:View Fall 2018

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