New clients to Chicago Volunteer Legal Services don’t usually know what to expect when they walk through the doors at CVLS’ administrative office. It is up to CVLS staff and volunteers to make their first interaction with CVLS a positive one.
Leo Feldman is one of the volunteers new clients get to meet. A retired partner at Teller, Levit & Silvertrust, P.C. Leo interviews prospective clients, learning the facts of their case, identifying the legal issues and brainstorming solutions.
While the bulk of Leo’s practice was resolving contested commercial disputes, Leo compares his post-retirement pro bono work to “going back to school.” At CVLS, Leo is engaged in areas of law he has never dealt before, including landlord-tenant cases, guardianships, adoptions . . . the works.
Eighty-five years old, Leo’s interest in law began a long time ago. He was motivated to become an attorney by the principles of justice and his desire to resolve disputes. Overcoming childhood polio in his youth, Leo never let that hold him back. He led an active life including producing skits and acting in plays in high school.
Leo’s practice benefited from his “show business“ background because he was able to use his theater skills in his litigation practice. Leo found that litigation was very much a performance in its own right—practicing law required understanding the clients and the issues, or, in theater-speak, understanding the characters and the story.
In court, Leo discovered that litigating was like being on stage. He had to project himself to the audience, either judge or jury, and convey his message in a way that his audience understood, both intellectually and emotionally.
Leo recommends that busy young attorneys make time for pro bono work. Practically, it is an incomparable way to learn a new area of law. It is also a way to refine your legal skills to help those that need it the most.
Having conducted hundreds of client intakes at CVLS, Leo is an expert on what a pro-bono attorney can bring to clients in need: Open-mindedness, patience and objectivity.
You can find Leo at CVLS interviewing clients, most Mondays and Fridays. Clients at CVLS may not know what to expect when they walk through CVLS’ doors that first time. But, once they meet Leo and explain their problems to him, they are comforted knowing that a competent, caring attorney is on their side.