SIDEBAR: Park Slope Lawyer Jimmy Lathrop
Jaime Lathrop, better known as Jimmy, also known as “the Park Slope Lawyer,” is a Manhattan-born attorney who graduated from Wilton High School in Connecticut, got his undergraduate degree at Bates College in Maine and went to Brooklyn Law School.
Lathrop is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) and was the director of the Foreclosure Intervention Program administered through the BBA’s Volunteer Lawyer’s Project (VLP).
Lathrop has been recognized for his pro bono work by the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, along with the New York County Lawyers’ Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York and received a Distinguished Service Award from the BBA in 2011 for his work with the VLP.
What inspired you to practice law?
I wanted a profession where I could take care of my parents when they got older and wouldn’t be able to work anymore. I had absolutely no [idea] of what being an attorney entailed, but I watched Ally McBeal and thought that they lived a very cosmopolitan and sophisticated lifestyle. They didn’t appear to work a lot and they had unisex bathrooms. That was it. It has surpassed my expectations.
What is it like to practice law in Brooklyn?
Anywhere else you’d be like a Ferrari stuck in traffic. Here you hit the ground running.
There is no shortage of people with problems in Brooklyn so there is never a lack of work. It’s a real thrill because you can spend every day in court on trial going full speed as much as you want.
What was your most memorable case?
One of my first appointments as a Guardian Ad Litem in the Brooklyn housing court. I was appointed as guardian of a woman who was 102 years old and was being evicted from her home in Bath Beach. She was being taken care of by her son who was in his early 60s, who was also taking care of his brother who was in his late 50s and had Down syndrome.
I went to visit them in their home and the caretaking son was completely overwhelmed. He showed me a wall of charcoal drawings that he had made of Christ. They were breathtaking in their ability. He confided in me that if he didn’t have his brother and mother to take care of that he would have been an illustrator.
It was a humbling moment as I put on my best game face, I assured him that I would do everything in my power to help him and his family out. When I left the apartment, I couldn’t make it to my car, I had to lean against the tree to take in all of that responsibility. It was a very sobering event, and one of the first tastes of the awesome responsibility to be able to assist people in need.
You do a lot of work with the VLP. That seems to be a great way for young lawyers to get experience, but what else can they get from it?
I was able to make friends with incredibly talented members of the Brooklyn legal community. We had a tremendous sense of comradery working on pro bono cases together and, coming from a solo background, where you are living like Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball on a desert island, it’s very isolating working for yourself because it magnifies your failures and diminishes your triumphs because you can’t share them with anyone.
It’s this feeling of being alone and loneliness that drives a lot of the mental health issues with legal practitioners. The amount of comradery and friendships that I’ve built in the short time that I have been involved [in] has made my quality of life so much richer and has tremendously boosted my own work. It’s been a real gift. I can’t stress enough how that opportunity to collaborate with other attorneys toward a common goal really added another dimension.
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