It's Monday morning at the Housing Justice Project (HJP) clinic in Seattle. HJP volunteer attorney Lori Buchsbaum sits across the table from a client facing imminent eviction. She thoughtfully reviews the file for defenses and patiently listens while the client tells her story.
Since she began volunteering in 2009, Buchsbaum has guided HJP clients through one of the most distressing situations a person can endure, with compassion and professionalism. She does so much more than educate clients about their legal rights. Buchsbaum takes time to really understand a client's situation so that she can provide not only counsel on the immediate legal problem, but offer down-to-earth advice to help the client move forward in a positive direction. She regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty, never hesitating to stay late into the afternoon to ensure that clients receive the assistance they need.
For this reason and many more KCBA Pro Bono Services has selected Buchsbaum as the February Volunteer of the Month. In addition to volunteering at HJP, Buchsbaum is a regular contributor to the Pro Bono Services' blog, Pro Bono Dicta. Check out her regular post "Food for Thought" on probonodicta.org.
KCBA asked Buchsbaum a few questions about volunteerism and personal life.
Q. How long have you been a KCBA volunteer?
A. I have been a KCBA volunteer since 2009.
Q. What inspires you to volunteer?
A. I enjoy the client interaction and believe that everyone should have access to legal assistance, independent of his/her income.
Q. What is your most memorable volunteer experience?
A. Every time I volunteer at the Housing Justice Project it gives me new perspective. Sometimes that comes from the legal process, but mainly it comes from the clients. I usually leave feeling how lucky I am and how glad I am to be able to give to others who are, at this point in their lives, struggling.
Q. What does pro bono mean to you?
A. It means using the legal education I was fortunate to get in order to help others access the legal system. While representing oneself is always an option, it is clearly an advantage to know the law and the way the courts work, especially for people who are overwhelmed by their situations and not able to gain perspective or focus their efforts.
Q. How will your experience with the Pro Bono Services programs help others?
A. I tell people about my pro bono work regularly. I hope that in addition to helping clients, talking about the work will get others interested in doing pro bono work and supporting it financially.
Q. What type of pet do you have?
A. A chocolate lab named Butch, who loves eating, sleeping and all "adventures," and wags his tail with incredible enthusiasm.
Q. How do you gain perspective regarding a difficult situation?
A. One of the things I love about the Housing Justice Project is the opportunity to discuss cases with other attorneys. When I have a challenging case I count on the perspectives of other attorneys to help me gain perspective.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. During this season, I love to ski and snowshoe. I also love hiking, biking and being outdoors - on the water or in the mountains.
Q. If you were a superhero, which superhero would you be and why?
A. I'm not sure which superhero, but it would have to be one that can fly. I've always dreamed of flying - on my own, not with a plane, paraglider or any other assistance.
Q. What inspires you to volunteer?
A. My inspiration comes from the clients and from the Housing Justice Project staff. I really enjoy the volunteer attorneys I work with and always feel a sense of contribution, if not success, after a day in the clinic.