Pro Bono Barrister: How BBA’s public forum became a state bar star

January 13, 2014 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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In recognition of the steady effort by Barrister Finkel and the initial launch six years ago, handled by Diana Szochet, we asked Szochet, via email, a number of questions regarding the founding and the continuing agenda of the BBA public forum.

Not only did she reply, Szochet actually agreed to put the story on paper and, as you’ll see, her words, citing more than just “the facts,” are better than any observer could offer:

Szochet writes: “Chuck, in the spring of 2008, the United States economy had just collapsed, foreclosures in Brooklyn were rampant, and I was installed as the president of the Brooklyn Bar Association.

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“In my induction speech, I spoke of our collective duty towards the greater Brooklyn community, and my plans to implement — in conjunction with the Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project and the Brooklyn Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service — a public education program to empower the citizens of our borough with knowledge of their legal rights.

“Throughout that summer, I worked with  [these groups] to develop Foundation Law Programs specific to the financial crisis, e.g., recognizing real estate scams, how to avoid/deal with foreclosure, as well as how to deal with consumer debt and/or bankruptcy.

“That first year, 2008 through 2009, we presented four programs. Since that time, the project has grown to five outreach programs a year, under the stewardship of my 2008-2009 co-chair, now chair, Fern Finkel.

“The Brooklyn Bar Association Young Lawyers Committee is involved now as well. But the mission has remained the same — to provide information to the lay community including, but not limited to, available legal services and resources; how to get help in the Courts; and how to protect their rights.

“From the inception, it was my belief that the legal system should be accessible to all. A corollary to the program has been greater access to, and awareness of, the resources available through the Volunteer Lawyers Project and the Lawyer Referral Service. In fact, the Volunteer Lawyers Project ultimately dedicated resources specifically to the foreclosure crisis.

“Foundation Law Programs is my legacy to the Bar. I am thrilled that it has been selected to receive the 2013 Bar Leaders Innovation Award for Large Bars in New York State, at the Annual Meeting of the New York State Bar Association in January 2014. — Diane J. Szochet, Esq.”

Thank you, Diana! Congratulations to you, Fern, Avery (Okin) and others who have done this job so well to win recognition on a statewide basis!

Working with her, as usual, will be BBA Executive Director Avery Okin. He’s easily accessible at [email protected] or by telephone, at (718) 624-0675. The intrepid leader of the BBA is Andy Fallek, with Rebecca Woodland – the notable television commentator – serving as President-elect. Other officers include First V.P. Arthur Aidala, Second V.P. Hon. Frank Seddio, Secretary Aimee Richter and Treasurer Dave Chidekel.

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