This month, we are proud to honor Janet Connolly as the Pro Bono Attorney of the Month for her commitment to the Mortgage Foreclosure Clinic and the pro bono Foreclosure Settlement Conference initiative.
Ms. Connolly attended the College of New Rochelle and later graduated from Hofstra Law School in 1980 where she was on Law Review. After working briefly in New York City, she decided to work closer to home in a firm that was better suited to her lifestyle. She eventually became a partner in the firm of Goldberg & Connolly, a construction law firm in Rockville Centre, where her primary area of practice was in labor and employment law.
After retiring from private practice in 2007, she reconnected with Martha Krisel, an Assistant Nassau County Attorney. Ms. Krisel suggested that Ms.Connolly help out with the newly formed Foreclosure Task Force which soon developed pro bono initiatives to help people facing foreclosure. Ms. Connolly has been working with these projects since their inception, demonstrating her commitment by participating in the court-based settlement conferences in the Nassau Supreme Court twice a week on a regular basis.
The projects, currently coordinated by Gale Berg, are run by the Nassau County Bar Association (NCBA). Volunteer attorneys provide one-on-one consultations at monthly clinics to Nassau County homeowners concerned about or facing foreclosure issues. Attorneys may also volunteer as “Attorneys of the Day” to represent homeowners and/or provide information and assistance at court-mandated conferences in Supreme Court.*
Ms. Connolly is convinced that the pro bono lawyers working with homeowners are making a significant difference. For example, simply offering advice, reviewing the foreclosure papers, assisting with information on how to submit pro se pleadings, or being present at the settlement conference, can help to relieve the homeowner’s anxiety. Ms. Connolly pointed out that the courteous attitude of the Court Referees and Court Clerks in the Settlement Part also helps in difficult situations.
Volunteering in foreclosure cases is not Ms. Connolly’s only community involvement. She has also done pro bono work with the National Organization of Women in discrimination cases. She currently serves as Trustee and Deputy Mayor of the Village of Lattingtown and finds time to volunteer with other lawyers in the NCBA’s mentoring project in Nassau County schools, working with middle school students twice a month.
In her “spare” time Ms. Connolly plays tennis, skis, skates, and enjoys the company of her four daughters and grandchildren. She comments on how she values her family life, raising her four daughters together with her husband, Leonard Connolly, who was her friend from high school until his recent passing. He was also an attorney (a partner in Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O’Donnell and Weyher and then Dechert LLP), served many years as the Village Justice of Lattingtown, and after he retired, was an adjunct professor at Hofstra Law School.
In commenting on her experiences with the Foreclosure Taskforce, Ms. Connolly describes the courage of many of the homeowners, some dealing with a disability, others in the middle of a divorce proceeding, unable to carry the mortgage, and facing the prospect of having to pull children out of a school they love. “Empathy is important and appreciated. I always ask about their children and I am impressed with how frequently the children are doing well academically, despite the turmoil surrounding the mortgage. Working with these situations sometimes means helping them to see the whole picture and deciding whether keeping the house is a realistic goal. Working with the housing counselors and other professionals at the monthly clinics is an essential and the pro bono assistance provided is invaluable.”
Ms. Connolly comments on how the calling to pro bono can be mutually rewarding. “It is a truism, but it is true, that the homeowner and the pro bono attorneys both profit from the relationship. I consider myself fortunate to be able to provide a service. I think that retired volunteers have the added advantage over others because they usually have more time and fewer responsibilities.”
We are privileged to acknowledge her generosity and service to the community by honoring Janet Connolly as the Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.
Attorneys interested to help out in this pro bono effort can call Gale Berg at NCBA.
Maria Dosso, Esq. is the Director of Communications and Volunteer Services at Nassau Suffolk Law Services where she has worked to provide free civil legal assistance to Long Islanders in need for over 25 years.
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