News / Events

Many Faces of Put Something Back

 
 
In 1992, Bruce Levine visited Miami following Hurricane Andrew to launch his legal career in public service and never left. He was recruited by Karen Josefsberg Ladis to lead “We Will Rebuild” Hurricane Relief efforts via the agency’s first grant from the Knight Foundation. Levine spent the next few years focusing efforts on contractor fraud, FEMA and insurance cases and upon successful completion of the grant, he became a Staff Attorney for Put Something Back, the Official Pro Bono Program of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, where he has been screening and pairing clients in need with lawyers and law firm supporters ever since. As Project Coordinator, Levine, who has been with the agency for 25 years, recruits, trains, coordinates and mentors attorneys, supervises volunteers, helps clients in need and matches them with lawyers who are “ready, willing and able” to assist. Many clients are elderly, victims, veterans, wheel chair bound, do not speak English and are referred by other agencies unable to assist them so Put Something Back does everything they can to help them as their last resort. “It is very fulfilling to help our clients who are desperate and have nowhere else to turn. Our goal is to provide a meaningful service to each client that walks through our doors, whether it is counsel and advice, brief services or a referral to a pro bono attorney.”  
 
The project handles hundreds of cases each month thanks to the outstanding team that includes Jessica Napoles, Assistant Coordinator, who is instrumental in helping to place over one thousand pro bono cases annually. The numbers are extremely high in large part thanks to long standing partnerships in place with the Courts, DCBA, Young Lawyers Section, Committees, Law Firms, schools. voluntary bars and others in the community and state. “We are truly blessed to work with so many dedicated and generous individual attorneys and firms and are most thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in client’s lives,” said Napoles. “During the Florida Bar renewal period (May – July), we recruit approximately 300 new attorneys to refer cases to. Thanks to our leadership and partners, we are able to train new and seasoned attorneys on cutting edge topics while achieving our goal of developing more volunteers for the escalating numbers of clients in need. With additional resources such as summer interns, we keep referring more clients to lawyers.” 
 
Another key staffer, Vicky Dopico, has handled client and attorney inquiries, organized CLE trainings, clinics and workshops, correspondence with donors and supporters and annual recruitment campaigns for the past 25 years. “Last month we held trainings on Family Law, Human Sex Trafficking and Bankruptcy and now we are focusing training on Immigration topics such as the Unaccompanied Minor Crisis and TPS.”  The team hopes that new grants, improved technology and creative partnerships will increase staff to help PSB to eventually achieve its goal of 100% participation by all attorneys in Miami-Dade in order to help the escalating client demand. To take a case or donate visit on line at www.dadelegalaid.org or email the type of case you will accept to PSB@dadelegalaid.org