Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 44


PRO BONO EFFECT

Jeffrey
Sherman

GOING

FOR BROKE
A conversation with bankruptcy clinic mentor Jeffrey Sherman

Solo practitioner Jeffrey Sherman has had a long
career specializing in bankruptcy issues and an
even longer career dedicated to pro bono service.
For more than a decade, he has annually
conducted two Chapter 7 bankruptcy trainings for
pro bono lawyers and mentored volunteers
through the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Bankruptcy
Clinic. In 2013 he helped to establish the
Bankruptcy Assistance Center at the United States
Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia. Last
June, Sherman was recognized by the D.C. Bar with
the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year
Award. The Pro Bono Center sat down with
Sherman to learn how he got started in pro bono
service and what motivates him.

How did you get started in pro bono service?
I can go back this far: When I was in high school and
first had an inkling that I was going to go to law
school, I got involved in pro bono activities. I grew up
in Queens, New York, and New York had what was
known as the High School Volunteer Program.
Through the program, I volunteered at a storefront
legal clinic in Manhattan called Mobilization for Youth,
which is still in existence. I worked at the intake
counter conducting interviews of people coming in
and describing their legal needs, whether it was a
landlord-tenant issue, a small claims issue, or a slip
and fall. Occasionally, I would sit in with the
lawyers working on their consultations to see how
it was done.

First, what attracted you to bankruptcy law?
I went to the George Washington University School of
Law intending to be a constitutional lawyer. I wanted
to argue freedom of speech and equal protection and
all the big constitutional issues. As a second-year law
student, one of my professors invited me to work in
the school's bankruptcy clinic. It was a lot of fun. It was
a segment of the community that needed problem
solving. This wasn't a venue for vindicating
somebody's offense, this was saving someone's
financial life - saving their home, saving their car,
saving their marriage, saving their retirement funds,
getting them out of a foreclosure, getting them out
of adverse litigation.

When I was between college and law school, I
worked for the New York Public Interest Research
Group's (NYPIRG) Small Claims Court Action Center.
The center was set up to help people who won
judgments in small claims court. They were not
permitted to have an attorney to help them collect
on the judgments they had been awarded. An
NYPIRG study had found that a huge percentage
of judgments in the small claims courts were not
being collected and, thus, decided to open this
center. Since I had graduated from college in the
middle of the year and wasn't starting law school
until the fall, I became a 40-hour-a-week volunteer
at the center.

At law school, my contracts professor, Gerry Caplan,
was involved in what was known as the Horsky
Committee, named after Charlie Horsky. The Horsky
Committee was organized by the D.C. Bar to evaluate
the operations of the D.C. courts, make some
suggestions on improvements of processes and
procedures, and try and get some of the more
complex forms recast in plainer language. Although I
was in my first year of law school, I nonetheless
became a volunteer working for the committee.
Between my first and second year of law school I
enrolled in a creditors' rights summer class that my
torts professor, James O'Dea, was teaching. I figured
this would be a good chance to learn about creditors'
rights in a more formal setting than my work at
NYPIRG and with a professor that I liked. It just
happened to have been at the same time in 1979 that
the new bankruptcy law was coming into effect. At
the time, GW had a clinic called the Consumer Help
Clinic that included a bankruptcy clinic. Normally, they
took only third-year law students, but Professor O'Dea
spoke to the clinic director and asked if I could
participate as a second-year [student] since I had
been trained in the new law. I worked for two terms
and a summer in the clinic as a volunteer. This
experience gave me my first exposure to practicing
bankruptcy - which I really enjoyed - as well as
built on my pro bono work. Once I got exposure to it, I
sort of parlayed the bankruptcy practice into a career.
Photo courtesy of Ben Zweig

44 WASHINGTON LAWYER * JANUARY 2017 *

By Christine Holmes


http://www.dcbar.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January 2017

Washington Lawyer - January 2017
Contents
Your Voice
From Our President
Our Membership
Career & Professional Development
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Government & Gavel
Feature: An Inside Job
Feature: Investment Planning for Lawyers
Feature: Making the Virtual Leap
Feature: Lawyers Have Heart
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Partners' Perspective
Ask the Ethics Experts
Attorney Briefs
Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Washington Lawyer - January 2017
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Contents
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 4
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Our Membership
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Career & Professional Development
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Government & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: An Inside Job
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 20
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: Investment Planning for Lawyers
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: Making the Virtual Leap
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 28
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: Lawyers Have Heart
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 32
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Partners' Perspective
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 45
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Cover4
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