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Zachary Samton hadn’t considered himself a practitioner of “holistic” pro bono when he took on Clara Villarosa as a client two years ago. The 34-year-old real estate senior associate at New York’s Chadbourne & Parke thought that helping Villarosa open her African American-themed Hue-Man Bookstore would be straight pro bono lease work. But the project quickly turned up a heap of legal issues, and Samton soon found himself with a client, not just a narrow assignment. As soon as Samton started discussing the store with Villarosa — who had been referred to the firm by the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp., a local agency that works with Chadbourne through New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Inc. — he found she needed more than his real estate expertise. When Samton asked what name would go on the lease, for instance, he discovered that Villarosa still needed to incorporate her store. There was also intellectual property work needed to ensure that Villarosa had the right to use the “Hue-Man” name. And then there were the lease negotiations and procurement of seed money for books to stock the store. Samton took the unusual step of asking Chadbourne pro bono partner Bernard McCarthy for permission to handle all of Villarosa’s legal needs, not just the lease that she had sought when she walked in the door. McCarthy thought the idea made sense. “We get familiar with people,” says McCarthy, “and it’s easier for us to do it than to farm it out.” Given the green light, Samton became a general counsel of sorts to Villarosa, handling what he could and doling out work outside his area to others at Chadbourne. (Samton left Chadbourne in November for an in-house job at The Brookhill Group, a commercial real estate redeveloper.) Holistic delivery can mean either of two things, according to Tanya Neiman, director of the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the Bar Association of San Francisco, who is credited with having developed the concept in the late eighties. Lawyers can examine the totality of a client’s legal issues, as Samton did, or go beyond legal needs, by pairing with social service, medical, and psychological care providers who can address clients’ nonlegal concerns. While the holistic approach can require a deeper and longer-term effort than traditional pro bono does, attorneys can also witness a more lasting effect for their work. Says Samton: “It was great to see an idea in someone’s head turn into a living, breathing animal.” After almost two years, Villarosa’s store opened last August. Villarosa says that Samton continues to be vital to the store’s success. “If there’s an issue, he’s still the point person,” she says. “He may refer me elsewhere, but he’s still the point person.” The holistic movement began when Neiman, who is trained as a lawyer, founded the Homeless Advocacy Project in 1988. Looking at that project’s clients, Neiman realized that simple legal solutions would never truly make a difference in their lives. “Typically, a homeless woman needs food stamps,” Neiman says. “You can get her on food stamps easily, but you’ve got to probe beyond that, to get at why she needs food stamps in the first place.” Neiman encourages lawyers to ask the questions that get at the root cause of problems; otherwise, she asserts, indigent clients will continue to cycle through the legal services system. Neiman also trains the lawyers to deliver such nonlegal services as advising clients on their social service needs. When she began the project, Neiman discovered there was no citywide social services resource list. “Everything was delivered so atomistically,” she says. So Neiman and her staff created San Francisco’s first guide to homeless resources, making it easier for clients to navigate the system. After a few years, she was able to extend services at her own organization by hiring an on-site social worker. Since then, Neiman has received a grant from the George Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute to spread the holistic doctrine nationwide. And 18 months ago her center deepened its social service connections by forming a joint venture with the nearby Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. Clients at those centers can be referred back and forth to receive a full range of medical, psychological, social and legal care. Over the last decade delivery of holistic legal services has proliferated. After the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, for instance, Neiman helped The Association of the Bar of the City of New York design a model for relief centers throughout the city — an effort that involved nearly 3,000 attorneys from private practice. Incoming cases were assigned to attorneys who reviewed a client’s panoply of needs and then either set about tending to them or finding someone who could. The approach creates “a more effective and meaningful relationship between client and lawyer,” says Michael Hertz of the Web site probono.net, who assisted in the effort. Kevin Curnin, who helped organize the bar association’s effort to aid small businesses near ground zero, has brought the holistic approach to his firm, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, where he became pro bono head about 18 months ago. “We model pro bono after our commercial practice,” he says. “We get a 360-degree view of the client and meet all the client’s needs.” Curnin often acts as the primary caretaker, interviewing the client and then bringing in specialists to help. Similarly, the hiring of pro bono director Debra Segal at Atlanta’s Kilpatrick & Stockton paved the way for holistic delivery there. Since starting at the firm 18 months ago, Segal — who has more than two decades of legal aid and pro bono experience — says she has noticed attorneys taking on clients for one legal issue but assisting on and referring out other issues as they go along. In working on a domestic violence complaint, for instance, an attorney may realize that the client also needs to break a lease; the lawyer helps with the legal implications. “It just comes from getting to know the client, either because of Q&A or just because the client trusts you,” Segal says. Attorneys at Kilpatrick have also gone to Segal for information on setting clients up with providers of nonlegal services. Still, most pro bono work does not follow the holistic model. With attorneys at large firms wrestling with billable hour requirements, finding time even to do traditional, single-project pro bono work can be a challenge. “People do like to do discrete, time-limited projects rather than something that’s open-ended and could escalate,” says Marial Imperial, executive director of the New York City bar’s pro bono arm. Even Chadbourne’s McCarthy notes that, while the holistic model works well in transactional pro bono projects, the firm often wants to limit its representations. “We don’t want to say, ‘Come in and we’ll give you a free legal examination,’ ” McCarthy says. He adds that in certain instances, such as prisoners’ rights cases, the firm needs to focus narrowly to avoid being pulled into a morass of unrelated and unwanted work. And yet large firms, which house many specialties, are particularly suited to aid clients holistically, says Stroock’s Curnin. He adds that this need not involve more total lawyer time, but may mean a different allocation of the work, over a longer span. “It’s changing someone’s life,” he says, “and that doesn’t happen on court-imposed deadlines.” Most holistic providers agree that they work with clients for the long term, but do not necessarily clock longer pro bono hours. The holistic approach rests on the optimistic notion that if enough expertise is brought to bear against a set of problems, the problems will be solved. Life defeats all easy formulas. The point, of course, is to keep trying. And treating a client as a whole person seems like a good place to begin.

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