President’s Message: Oct./Nov. 2012

I was in my first year as an attorney.  As a “baby lawyer” at Whitfield, that meant that I was on call for anything and everything.  One day, Megan Antenucci, the managing partner and president of the PCBA VLP called me into her office and asked if I could handle a paternity matter for the VLP.  It was not a simple paternity matter – the mother, who was young, had developed complications during her pregnancy and had gone into a coma during childbirth.  She was unable to sign an Affidavit of Paternity, which would establish the father of this newborn child.

The father, a 17 year old “kid”, wanted to establish his rights as dad.  Law school certainly had not taught me how to handle this situation.  I reached out to experienced attorneys and even a judge for advice on the procedure.  No one really gave me the answer, but pulling together everyone’s advice, I was able to piece meal the right track and got it figured out.

October is Pro Bono Month.  It is also a time we welcome young lawyers to the profession.  I am often asked why one should support pro bono efforts.  I always give the stock answers – 1.  There is a huge need; 2.  It is a way to support the judiciary; 3.  The profession suggests each attorney have 50 hours of pro bono efforts every year, etc., etc.  But one reason I forgot to mention that as a young attorney, pro bono work helped my professional development in so many ways.

The end to my story is this – We had a guardian ad litem appointed for mom and for the child.  We did an order which required everyone to undergo paternity testing.  The testing was completed and my client could not wait until the test results were returned so he could start being a father.

Unfortunately, the ending was nothing anyone expected.  It turned out that my client, who had purchased clothes and toys for this child, was not the father.

As we celebrate Pro Bono month, I hope you all remember my story and encourage all lawyers – both young and old – to donate their time and talents to those in need of pro bono legal services.