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Melonie Jurgens grew up in a part of the country that former President Jimmy Carter had in mind when he famously complained that America has too many lawyers yet too many people who go unrepresented in times of trauma. “I grew up in rural Nebraska, where there’s not a whole lot of access to the legal system, which in itself is something that people didn’t really understand,” said Jurgens, 27, a general litigation associate at White & Case in New York. “I knew people who faced terrible problems because they didn’t have money to get lawyers.” Understandably, Jurgens jumped at the chance to become Volunteer No. 1 in her firm’s unique pro bono program in partnership with inMotion, formerly known as the Network for Women’s Services. Jurgens, a graduate of Notre Dame Law School, recently completed a four-month rolling externship at inMotion, handing off responsibilities to her colleague at White & Case — Meghan McCurdy, 29, an intellectual property litigation associate. Jurgens said the hands-on experience representing indigent, working class and immigrant women was personally gratifying and professionally valuable. “I was in [Brooklyn family] court on my second day, getting an order of protection and termination of visitation rights on a complaint of child sex abuse,” said Jurgens. “The client was very organized, but the moment the judge said something, she froze. “You always have to remember that you’re helping these women move forward,” she added. “Gradually, you see them become more confident, to the point where they’re doing things for themselves.” As the second extern from White & Case, McCurdy has picked up the case load. During Jurgens’ final week at inMotion, McCurdy observed. “It was very helpful to watch her [Jurgens] interact with the clients,” said McCurdy, a graduate of the Washington College of Law at American University. “In one sense, you can see the fear in clients, but I didn’t really fully understand it until a woman told me the other day, ‘I just don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here.’ “To see that justice is done — it’s great,” McCurdy said. EXTERNSHIP Ramonita Cordero, director of inMotion’s legal program, designed the externship, working with two key persons: James M. Stillwaggon, of counsel at White & Case, and Byrne Harrison, the firm’s pro bono coordinator. “We wanted to see where the need was extreme, and where our talents could serve,” said Stillwaggon, chair of his firm’s pro bono committee. “We’ve dealt with life-threatening cases, where we’ve found relief in the courts.” Cordero said approximately 1,500 women a year are provided pro bono counsel in actions before the Supreme Court and Family Court. White & Case is among the 40 major law firms in Manhattan that provide volunteer attorneys to inMotion. Additionally, inMotion is building a second volunteer panel, composed of solo and small firm practitioners in the Bronx. “We have enough attorneys now on staff to properly supervise our externs,” said Cordero, 37, a graduate of the University of California (Los Angeles) School of Law. “Young associate lawyers get almost immediate courtroom experience, which is not common at their level.” Now back at the firm, Jurgens is putting that uncommon experience level to practical use. She has become the go-to person for young White & Case associates confronted for the first time with family law matters. “I spend about an hour a day advising other lawyers here on cases they’re handling,” said Jurgens, adding that she still serves inMotion as a mentor, advising lawyers from the other volunteer firms about procedures.

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