On October 25, 2023, the City Bar Justice Center commemorated the tremendous support of eleven volunteers, who were awarded with a 2023 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award, for their remarkable commitment to our clients and for championing our team’s mission to advance access to justice. Congratulations!

Consumer Bankruptcy Project: James T. Bentley, Counsel at Winston & Strawn LLP

The Consumer Bankruptcy Project helps New Yorkers struggling with consumer debt, assists individuals with filing pro se bankruptcy petitions, and provides pro bono representation to debtors in contested bankruptcy matters. 

James Bentley, Counsel at Winston & Strawn LLP, has been dedicated to pro bono work for the past several years and utilizes his skills and knowledge in bankruptcy and restructuring to assist our pro bono clients. Filing for bankruptcy relief is a means that helps individuals burdened with consumer and student loan debt to obtain a fresh start. For our clients who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, many who feel embarrassed about the prospect of filing for bankruptcy, the road to a successful discharge is difficult. James’s respectful and patient approach provides clients with courage in what seems like an intimidating process.   

James has dedicated 236 pro bono hours to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. He has participated in our “fresh start” bankruptcy clinics, where he has advised individuals on filing for Chapter 7 relief; represented individuals who could not afford an attorney in litigated bankruptcy matters; and served as a panelist on a small business bankruptcy webinar, where he provided helpful information to small businesses experiencing financial distress during the pandemic.  

James makes sure that he and his pro bono clients work together as a team so that the result of his legal assistance has a meaningful impact on the clients’ lives. He takes time explaining and answering questions about the bankruptcy process and works around clients’ busy work and family schedules. These small but meaningful tactics make him approachable and instill confidence in the work he does.   

One of James’s pro bono clients, a mother of three and caretaker of an ailing mother, struggled to repay her student loans which required her to pay over $1000/month. She filed a pro se proceeding in bankruptcy court seeking a discharge of the debt but found it challenging to navigate the court system, rules, and bankruptcy law while managing the demands of her family and work. Working together with the client, James convinced the student loan lender to lower her monthly payments to $200/month for 8 years, at which point, the remainder would be forgiven. While the impact of James’s advocacy is obvious, no one can sum up the effects of it better than the client, who stated, “James Bentley is a kind person who handled a sensitive situation with care and knowledge. He makes time for the people he interacts with. He is always willing to share his knowledge and lead you to a place of safety and financial awareness. I thank him for the time that he invested with me, and [I am] better off [after] meeting him.”      

We are pleased to award James Bentley with a 2023 Pro Bono Service Award for his dedication and compassion in providing pro bono services to our bankruptcy clients, for his broad contributions to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, and for his overall commitment to pro bono work.