Pro Bono Volunteer Paul Winke Helps Homeless Legal Clinic Score Victory
by Michael Fil May 2, 2018
On an unseasonably warm day in December 2013, former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman held a press conference at NYU to announce a new initiative making it easier for thousands of in-house corporate counsel to provide pro bono services. Speaking to the assembled group, he said “Isn’t it a tribute to the corporate spirit when you have the corporate community saying, ‘We want to do pro bono work, please let us do pro bono work,’ and the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’?” Fast forward to April 2018, when BNY Mellon Managing Counsel Paul Winke, in collaboration with City Bar Justice Center’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless, scored a victory for his most recent pro bono client.
Mr. Winke acted quickly to prevent the auction of the precious belongings of a young homeless mother with nine-year-old twins. The City was forced to pay $1,875 to a storage facility, an amount the family was legally entitled to receive. Mr. Winke also sought a fair hearing, arguing that public assistance recoupment notices sent to the client did not comply with New York State Social Services Law and regulations. Two days before the hearing, he secured a settlement from the City, which issued the family over $1,500 in previously recouped cash benefits and deleted an additional sum of more than $6,000 in pending recoupment actions against the family.
Preceding Judge Lippman’s pro bono announcement by years, Mr. Winke’s recent victory is but one in a career marked by a consistent pro bono commitment. Beginning with his days at NYU Law School, Mr. Winke went on to score pro bono victories at Wilmer Hale, including vacating convictions for three individuals in prison for a rape and murder they didn’t commit. At BNY Mellon, Mr. Winke’s pro bono work has spanned a variety of projects, from veterans’ appeals to an LGBTQ asylum intake clinic.
It’s not just corporate social responsibility that drives BNY Mellon attorneys like Mr. Winke to pro bono work. Asked about the benefits for an attorney choosing to dedicate their time to pro bono, Mr. Winke offers one word: engagement. “You get to engage with the community. We see the legal needs and have the skills to help.” A lot of volunteering may involve intakes, giving attorneys little time to spend with their clients. Yet valuable lessons can be drawn from this short window, lessons Mr. Winke shares with junior attorneys who are new to pro bono. “You learn to listen to clients and pick up important information. You build partnerships with law firms; these are important interactions.”
Does it take a lot of convincing to get everyone on board with pro bono? “Different projects appeal to different people. However, we do highlight how gratifying it is to work with and have a relationship with clients in need. The one condition to do this is getting support from the legal department.” Not an issue! “The legal department and General Counsel have been incredibly supportive,” he says of the atmosphere at BNY Mellon.
The City Bar Justice Center is proud to collaborate with Paul Winke and so many other lawyers from the financial services community. As CBJC Legal Clinic for the Homeless Director Lisa Pearlstein recently observed, “Paul’s excellent advocacy has secured crucial public benefits for homeless families, helping to stabilize their lives. Can you imagine how happy the twins and their mom were? Saving their possessions from auction for the day they move out of the shelter system and into their own apartment?”
Interested in doing pro bono?
We match over 1,100 pro bono attorneys with cases each year across a wide range of legal matters. These include, but are not limited to: immigration, bankruptcy, end of life planning, veterans disability, homelessness, and micro-entrepreneurship. To learn more about volunteering for individuals or firm/corporate partnership opportunities, visit our Do Pro Bono page.
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