General

A Source of Support for Law Students

2016 Trial Lawyers Care Award recipient Ira Leesfield presents a scholarship to a law student.

To help dedicated students afford law school, Miami lawyer Ira Leesfield has provided dozens of scholarships since 1994. Founding partner of Leesfield Scolaro in Miami, Leesfield benefited from scholarships in high school and college, and he felt compelled to give back.

 

 

 

“Without people being generous and concerned about me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten an education,” he said.

He started by repaying the group that gave him his college scholarship, and then he partnered with AAJ to create and endow the Leesfield/American Association for Justice Law Student Scholarship Program in 1994. This scholarship goes to law student members who exemplify a high commitment to trial advocacy and preserving the civil justice system. The scholarship, awarded at AAJ’s Annual Convention, gives recipients exceptional learning opportunities.

In 1997, Leesfield established the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) Miami-Dade chapter scholarship fund, which helps exemplary women law students defray tuition and expenses. FAWL is a professional organization that promotes the advancement of women in the legal profession, and its members include lawyers, judges, and professionals in the business community.

The scholarship recipients often stay in touch with Leesfield—he said he still hears from the first AAJ scholarship recipient. “It’s incredibly rewarding, and it certainly makes you feel relevant,” he said. He noted that since both scholarships were established, several other firms have initiated similar scholarship support.

The Leesfield Family Foundation, established in 1990, supports other scholarship funds as well, including the Harold Foster Memorial Scholarship, Shepard Broad Law Center, Nova Southeastern University; the Thomas H. Henderson Jr. Endowed Scholarship, University of Alabama; the Daniel S. Pearson Scholarship and the Eileen G. Breier Scholarship Fund, University of Miami School of Law; and the Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo Jo” Scholarship Fund.

The foundation also contributes to the community in other ways, particularly causes that help the elderly, children, and women. “My mom was a single mom,” Leesfield said. She raised him and his two siblings, and he worked after-school and weekend jobs to help with expenses. Leesfield also said he believes it’s important to support smaller charitable groups, which often get passed over by large foundations.

“It would be inconceivable for me to go through my whole life and prosper as a lawyer and not give others the same opportunity,” Leesfield said. “Trial lawyers have a unique opportunity to work with people who are vulnerable, so it follows that they would have empathy for those in need. If you have more than what you need for a comfortable lifestyle, why wouldn’t you share it?”

Posted on July 13, 2016 at 6:59 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Driving the Message Home

As part of the Dori Slosberg Foundation’s driver education and safe teen driving program, Brian LaBovick of the LaBovick Law Group in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., speaks to local high school students every month about safe driving. He brings a legal perspective to the team that visits the schools and explains how one poor decision—involving DUI, texting, a passenger or other distractions—can affect a student’s life forever.

LaBovick speaks to the students as a father first and foremost, and as an attorney second. 

He explains that it is his job to ensure punishment for the driver who injures someone through distracted driving. He walks them through how their poor decisions can affect their families, and not just the families of the people they hurt. This could mean putting their own families in dire financial straits—including their college funds disappearing, their belongings and even their pets getting seized, and their wages getting garnished. “It takes no time to make a mistake in the car,” LaBovick said. “It’s important for them to understand that something that starts as a minor situation can quickly turn into a disaster. No one wants that for them.”

The team of presenters also brings together police and medical providers, and sometimes includes the victim of an accident, someone who has gotten out of jail after a DUI, a driving instructor, and a professional race car driver—who illustrates how dangerous it is to drive in everyday traffic. Driving on a typical street is more dangerous than driving a race car because of variables such as traffic flow and pedestrians to negotiate, LaBovick said. “We think it’s so easy that we don’t pay attention.”

The presentations have made progress. The number of accidents and deaths during prom has decreased for the schools the foundation has visited. The foundation has also made progress in pushing for safer driving laws, LaBovick said. The foundation’s mission is to educate the public and promote safe driving habits through the use of seat belts and the elimination of distracted driving (see dorisaveslives.org for more information).

LaBovick hopes that if the foundation can get its message across to students, it can help allow future generations to be safer on the roadways. He says that talking directly to the students has been rewarding. “When you donate money, you know it’s going to good use, but you don’t see it in the faces of the kids you help.”

[Editor’s note: LaBovick was a finalist for the American Association for Justice’s 2016 Trial Lawyers Care Award.]

Posted on at 6:40 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

One Sandwich at a Time

People who work at Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Goza in Leawood, Kansas, take part in many community service activities, but the one that brings them all together each week to roll up their sleeves is sandwich-making. Every Tuesday, they put together more than 350 ham and cheese sandwiches for the City Union Mission, a homeless shelter in Kansas City. “It’s all hands on deck,” said partner Jim Bartimus, explaining that everyone at the firm participates, and some clients have joined in as well. “People love it,” he said. “It’s unusual.”

Bartimus started the tradition more than 22 years ago, and the firm hasn’t missed a week since. The firm buys the ingredients wholesale from a local grocery store. It started as 50 sandwiches, and then 100, and it grew from there; over the years, the firm has donated more than $100,000 to the cause.  

People at the firm also volunteer together for other causes. Once a month, several of them volunteer at the local food pantry, and the firm allows paid time off for employees to participate. Through the nonprofit Lawyers Encouraging Academic Performance and Operation Breakthrough, which supports children who live in poverty, some members of the firm read with kids weekly.

“For many years, the partners have encouraged all attorneys and staff members to participate in charity endeavors for whatever organizations they choose, as well as firm-supported work,” said Kim Millican, the firm’s business manager. “We must set the bar and be the example to others out there.  We can all do more, all the time.  We have to think about the impact we can have on others’ lives through our giving.”

Partner Chip Robertson started a charitable foundation, Christmas Present, Inc., that funds more than 500 gifts for families in need during the holiday season. He saw a need for children whose parents and family members couldn’t provide gifts for them, and he wanted to step in. The office now buys and wraps gifts to be distributed in the area.

Jim and Dana Bartimus started the Dana James Charitable Foundation to help children in need.  They regularly contribute to causes that provide relief for children who need it. The firm has also contributed significantly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Children’s Mercy Hospital, the local children’s hospital in Kansas City, to fund research.

Bartimus said that once, when he was getting ready to depose a local doctor he was suing, the doctor mentioned that he’d heard Bartimus had donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The doctor told him, “I can’t thank you enough,” explaining that his daughter has leukemia.

“There’s so much need out there,” Bartimus said. “We’re supposed to be lawyers and leaders in our community. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and hope someone else does it.”

Posted on December 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Lawyer Takes Biking Safety Message to Schools, Courtroom, and Races

Doug Landau is an avid cyclist. As an All American triathlete and duathlete, he represented the United States at the World Championships in Adelaide, Australia, in October 2015. From his office at Abrams Landau in Herndon, Virginia, he can see bikers on the W&OD Trail biking without helmets every day.

He knows from personal and professional experience that head injuries can be devastating, so he decided to do something about it. Several years ago, he started giving away bike helmets to children at local schools. In 2014, he gave away “a helmet a day”—at least 365 helmets. 

As part of the giveaway program, dubbed “Putting Lids on Kids,” Landau teaches children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet and about traumatic brain injuries. He shows them smashed helmets from actual crash victims and uses models of the skull and brain to show how brain injuries happen. He also teaches them how to wear a helmet properly: Law enforcement officers, elected officials, university bike club members, and school staff help custom-fit each child’s helmet. Landau also offers to replace the helmet when the child outgrows it or the helmet gets damaged. “Parents, teachers, and students have received the educational program and helmet giveaway very favorably,” he said. He estimates that he has given away more than 1,000 helmets over the years.

Landau suffered a double concussion himself in 2013. The recovery process was long, he said, and “it was like walking around in Jello.” He said he would often forget words and “would be passed out on the office couch by 2 p.m. every day.” He had studied neurology and had a good understanding of brain injuries, but he didn’t fully appreciate the recovery process until he lived it. Brain injuries require energy to heal, he explained, and most people don’t give the brain the complete rest it requires to fully heal.

He says this experience allows him to be empathetic with the injured athletes he represents and to talk to them knowledgeably about concussions. “My father was a New York City lawyer and inducted into the AAJ [American Association for Justice] Hall of Fame. He used to say that if you have any outside expertise, it can come in handy for helping people,” Landau said. “My knowledge of sports medicine and athletic participation helps me help people injured while participating in recreational activities.” 

Landau’s efforts to support and educate bikers and other athletes also extends outside of local schools and injured clients. He has sponsored the Maryland & Virginia Triathlon Super Series, which includes more than 30 multisport races in the mid-Atlantic region that support local charities. At these events, Landau helps educate people about bicycle safety and sports law.

“It’s important for someone who takes something from a sport to give something back,” he said, and that is why he serves as a volunteer flagger and performs helmet safety inspections at local triathlons and has taught sports law at the Mid-Atlantic Multi-Sport Expo in Washington, D.C.

Posted on December 10, 2015 at 12:08 am in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Digging In to Help Others

Cope 1 small In recognition of the American Association for Justice TLC National Day of Service, Motley Rice attorney Breanne Cope joined a Dig-In, planting two gardens outside of Austin, including one at a local restaurant where the vegetables are used to feed homeless Austinites.

 A Dig-in is an initiative of Green Corn Project (GCP), a grass-roots, Austin-based non-profit organization that teaches basic organic gardening skills while helping Austin families and community organizations grow organic food gardens. Its primary goal is to encourage and support backyard food gardening in communities that have limited access to affordable, healthy food, using organic and bio-intensive methods to create healthy soil and high-yielding vegetable gardens. 

GCP provides garden recipients with plants, seeds, tools, compost and volunteer labor to double dig and plant a 4 by 12 foot garden. Afterward, GCP continues to provide volunteer support and garden supplies for two years, or longer if needed. Breanne Cope is on the GCP Board of Directors.

 

Posted on July 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Kentucky Justice Association’s Day of Service

One of the first projects for Kentucky Justice Association Trial Lawyers Care involved the lawyers, their families, and local physicians working together to help Supplies Over Seas (SOS).  Founded in 1993 by members of the Greater Louisville Medical Society, SOS collects and distributes surplus medical supplies and equipment to medically impoverished communities around the world.

The group spent the morning of May 9, sorting supplies. Thanks to those who participated, including pictured: front row, left to right, Chandrika Srinivasan, Alexandra Logsdon, Mike Schafer, and Jared Smith; back row from left to right, Kevin Weis, Ken Doan, David Bryant, Ron Johnson, and Ty Smith. Kentucky Trial Lawyers Care t-shirts provided by Howland & Smith.  

Posted on May 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm in General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Injury Board Lawyers Rejuvenate Denver Park

Bryan Pope (McLarty Pope LLP) adds a fresh coat of paint to a park fence in Denver.

Bryan Pope (McLarty Pope LLP) adds a fresh coat of paint to a park fence in Denver.

AAJ member Bryan Pope was among the more than 50 trial lawyers who volunteered in May to clean and rejuvenate Martinez Park, located in West Denver. The lawyers were in Colorado for the Injury Board’s Radius of Influence (ROI) spring conference.

Many hands made light work. The lawyers tackled two weeks’ worth of tasks in just a couple of hours. Together they planted 18 new trees, picked up debris in the park and in a neighboring stream, and also put a fresh coat of paint on benches, picnic tables, the baseball diamond backstop, park signs, playground equipment, the bridge walkway of the river, railings, and trash cans.

To read more about this event and see the photo gallery, please visit the Injury Board’s Volunteer Event Page on Facebook.

Posted on May 14, 2015 at 4:02 pm in General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Lawyer’s Hometown Passion Fuels Downtown Revival

George Jebaily: Finalist, 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award, American Association for Justice

George Jebaily: Finalist, 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award, American Association for Justice

George Jebaily was seven years old when his family relocated from New York to Florence, South Carolina, in 1963. The community warmly embraced his family and Florence quickly became “home” for the Jebaily family. As adults, George and his brothers raised their own families in Florence. And when the vibrancy of Downtown Florence was noticeably fading, George decided to give back to the city he loves, so that it would shine again for future generations.

The enormous undertaking of redeveloping Downtown Florence, S.C., began in earnest in 1999 with the creation of the Visions 2010 Committee, a citizens’ committee which George chaired. Working with then Mayor Frank Willis, this grassroots outreach effort was organized to engage the community in a dialogue to create a conceptual plan for the redevelopment of Downtown Florence. The Visions 2010 Committee evolved into the Florence Downtown Development Corporation (FDDC), a non-profit organization which worked with consultants to create a detailed Master Plan. The mission of the FDDC was devoted to working with the City of Florence to oversee the implementation of the Master Plan and restore civic pride in Downtown Florence.  

As a part of the 10-year redevelopment plan, George served as the first chairman of the FDDC from 2002-2008, and as the chairman of the Master Plan update committee in 2010. This revised Master Plan continues to provide the framework for moving forward the redevelopment of Downtown Florence. Now, more than 15 years later from when he first began, George is a newly elected member of the Florence City Council and remains committed to the purpose and cause of developing and supporting the town in which he grew up.

“At a time when many others were ‘naysayers’ about the ability for Downtown Florence to have a revival, my brother George was convinced that Downtown Florence would be restored and renewed to make our community a place of pride for a whole new generation,” said Ron Jebaily, who nominated George for the 2014 American Association for Justice Trial Lawyers Care Award.  “That dream keeps driving him forward.”

Downtown Florence, an artist's rendering.

Downtown Florence, an artist’s rendering.

In the fall of 2008, during his last year as Chairman of the FDDC, George recognized the need for increased enthusiasm and support for the redevelopment effort. He believed in the power of the arts to bring people together, enlisting the commitment of two key community artists and activists to create an all-volunteer art gallery space downtown.

The Art Trail Gallery officially opened its doors on December 9, 2008, to a reception of more than 700 community members, many of whom were non-believers in the redevelopment effort prior to the gallery experience. Since then, thousands of visitors have poured through the doors of the Art Trail Gallery, and have viewed the work of more than 600 artists. The gallery has been a major catalyst of economic renewal and has provided momentum for the redevelopment effort.

Pecan Festival-goers crowd the streets in Downtown Florence.

Pecan Festival-goers crowd the streets in Downtown Florence.

Additionally, George served as the chairman of the South Carolina Pecan Festival from its creation in 2004 to the present.The street festival is held each year on the first Saturday in November and has grown to cover 11 linear blocks in Downtown Florence.

Jebaily Law Firm annually provides a sponsorship of the festival, with firm attorneys and staff regularly participating. Festival-goers enjoy free, live concerts on eight stages, plus there are “Run Like A Nut” & “Bike Like A Nut” events, a free Kids Fun Zone, a talent show, pecan cook-off, corn-hole tournament, and more than 250 arts & craft and food vendors. The festival routinely has more than 50,000 attendees, and is a driving force in the renaissance taking place in the heart of the community.

The staff from Jebaily Law Firm, P.A.

The staff from Jebaily Law Firm, P.A.

It’s easy to see how the name George Jebaily has become synonymous with Downtown Florence. His leadership and commitment to the rebuilding process set the stage for bringing together key players to form public-private partnerships that have engaged the greater community in the redevelopment process.Today, Downtown Florence is seeing a major transformation with a new Florence County Library, new Florence Little Theater, new FMU Performing Arts Center, new Florence County Museum, and a host of small businesses who have embraced the vision and have chosen to make an investment in Downtown Florence. Most importantly, there is a now a new belief that Downtown Florence has a vibrancy and attraction which will engage both present and future generations. 

For George, there is no greater thank you than seeing the smiles on the faces of so many members of the community as the redevelopment of Downtown Florence continues to build year after year.

Posted on April 13, 2015 at 7:37 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Maine Lawyer Encourages Safer Driving for Teens

Joe Bornstein: Finalist, 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award, American Association for Justice

Joe Bornstein: Finalist, 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award, American Association for Justice

How do you get teens thinking about the dangers of drinking and driving and distracted driving? Ask Joe Bornstein. As a personal injury lawyer, Bornstein has seen the horrific firsthand effects of dangerous driving.

When his eldest child was able to get a driver’s license, Bornstein decided to focus on educating the most vulnerable drivers and their friends and passengers.

The Arrive Alive Creative Contest is an ongoing project now in its 11th year. Every spring Bornstein asks Maine high school seniors to enter creative projects depicting the dangers of drinking and driving and distracted driving around the “Stay Safe and Arrive Alive!” theme.

Projects can be presented in various mediums – videos, original songs, drawings, paintings, photos, essays, poems and more.

In the past 10 years, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has given away more than $85,000 in prizes as a way to help educate teenage drivers in their formative years.  Two award ceremonies are held each spring –in northern Maine and in southern Maine; the top 20 winners along with two guests are invited to attend.  

“With the prevalence of cell phones, smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices, now is the right time to educate the community about the potential dangers in the ways we all communicate,” says Henri Benoit II, a colleague of Bornstein’s, who nominated him for the 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award.

The Trial Lawyers Care Award is presented by the American Association for Justice to a trial lawyer who has significantly contributed to his/her community through volunteer and charitable activities that serve the public. Bornstein was a 2014 finalist.

For over 40 years, Bornstein and his law firm have represented more than 22,000 injured and disabled Mainers including those affected by drunk driving and distracted driving. This is a subject about which he can speak from experience and with much credibility to make a lasting effect on both teenagers and drivers of all ages.

While parents and teachers have long lectured teens about safe driving, the Arrive Alive Creative Contest gets teenagers to think about existing dangers and to develop memorable messages that can not only win them a new laptop, but also potentially save the lives of friends or loved ones.

Bornstein also gives back to his community leasing the most recognized electric sign in Portland, Maine, which reigns on top of a tall building known locally as the Time and Temperature building. He donates space on the sign to non-profit organizations so that they can display their messages. In addition, over the past decade, Bornstein’s law office has donated more than $750,000 to Maine charities.  

Posted on February 13, 2015 at 8:05 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Louisiana Lawyer Pays it Forward

Glenn Armentor: Finalist, 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award, American Association for Justice

Glenn Armentor: Finalist, 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award, American Association for Justice

Glenn Armentor was born into poverty. His life was headed down a crime-laden path that would have landed him in prison, but three mentors – a police office, a teacher, and an attorney — changed his life. Because of his experience as an at-risk youth,  Armentor established the Pay It Forward Scholarship program, which now gives multiple $10,000 scholarships each year to students in critical need who want to attend college.

”My mentors taught me that every child, no matter how seemingly troubled and problematic, is worth the effort to save and worth the time to turn into a better person,” says Armentor, who is a prominent personal injury attorney in Lafayette, Louisiana, and was a finalist for the American Association for Justice 2014 Trial Lawyers Care Award.

He says the Pay It Forward Scholarship “is far and away my best work.”

Scholarship Poster

Scholarship Poster

The program was structured after thorough research with scholarship experts from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Foundation. The $10,000 that a student receives enables him or her to matriculate and begin the process of applying for Pell grants, housing scholarships, merit-based scholarships, book scholarships, and transportation scholarships. Depending on the student’s ACT scores and grade point average, a student who receives the Pay It Forward Scholarship can receive other scholarships and grants ranging in value from $35,000 to $80,000 over the course of four years, essentially helping them pay for all of their college costs.

Armentor intends to expand the scholarship so that it can be offered statewide and even nationally.

“I have made contact with lawyers throughout the state who grew up in poverty and are now doing exceptionally well, and have shared with them the research we did on scholarships, as well as our artwork, templates, and forms so that they can initiate their own scholarship programs,” says Armentor.

He anticipates that six other scholarship programs will arise in six other college towns over the next several years.

Armentor is proud of the work the lawyers at his firm do for injured individuals and families, and he believes, “What sets us apart is the fact that every one of our lawyers has a very significant, highly respected community service project that does a world of good for the constituency it seeks to serve and to benefit…. The lawyers in our firm are happy, our firm feels like part of the community and part of the family of our Acadiana region and we have established a deep friendship and rapport with every segment of our community.”

Glenn and wife Dana, with past and present scholarship recipients.

Glenn and wife Dana, with past and present scholarship recipients.

The scholarship program has come a long way. In its first year, only a few students applied. No one could believe that a trial lawyer wanted to help kids in the most dire of circumstances, and that the scholarship was real. In 2010, the first year of the Pay It Forward Scholarship, one student received the scholarship. In 2011, there were two scholarship recipients; in 2012 four recipients; in 2013 five recipients; and in 2014, two recipients. Videos about the students are featured on the Armentor firm’s website. 

As part of the program, Armentor asks the students to–at some point in their lives–take the time to pay it forward to help someone else. In addition, in 2014 he started bringing all the recipients together for what will be an annual luncheon which will enable the scholarship recipients to stay in touch and mentor and support each other.

 

Posted on January 28, 2015 at 8:49 pm in Community Outreach, General by kloiacono - RSS 2.0