The Suffolk Pro Bono Project is pleased to honor Stephen R. Hellman, once again, as its Pro Bono Attorney of the Month. This is Mr. Hellman's third time receiving this honor. It is his recent work for several of the Project's most vulnerable matrimonial clients that has earned him this distinction once again.
Mr. Hellman has been a solo Family and Matrimonial Law attorney in Suffolk County for his entire legal career. His practice is located in Eastport, New York and his particular expertise is representing survivors of domestic violence and financial exploitation. The Pro Bono Project has taken advantage of Mr. Hellman's expertise, often referring to him domestic violence clients.
Setting Mr. Hellman apart as a Pro Bono Project volunteer is his unlimited willingness to accept new pro bono referrals, even when several of his prior Project referrals are still ongoing, and regardless of the new matter's complexity. It is not uncommon for Mr. Hellman to not only assist his pro bono clients in the divorce action, but also represent them in ancillary Family Court or District Court proceedings. He does so even though the Project does not require its attorneys take on such additional responsibilities. "It is his very comprehensive approach to assisting his pro bono clients that makes Mr. Hellman such a special asset to our program,” notes Maria Dosso, Nassau Suffolk Law Services' Director of Communications and Volunteer Services. She adds, "He is one of those unique volunteers who goes above and beyond what is required. We cannot thank him enough for his contributions."
The practice of law is Mr. Hellman's second career. After earning his BA at Stony Brook University in 1983, Mr. Hellman worked in law enforcement for ten years as part of SBU's University Police. He received multiple “meritorious service awards” and "excellent service awards" during those years. He left the police force in 1993 after being injured on the job. Immediately thereafter, Mr. Hellman enrolled in Hofstra Law School, earning his J.D. in 1997.
While a Hofstra law student, Mr. Hellman clerked for a Patchogue Village Court judge. During the clerkship, he came to know an attorney who frequently appeared in the village court, and who ultimately became his mentor, teaching Mr. Hellman key aspects of matrimonial and family law. With this knowledge, Mr. Hellman was able to join the Suffolk County 18b and law guardian panels soon after becoming admitted in 1998. His 18b and law guardian cases provided him with a great deal of valuable experience that was critical as a new attorney.
Mr. Hellman joined the Pro Bono Project not long after starting his practice. Over the years, he has successfully protected the rights and interests of numerous Project clients, representing both plaintiffs and defendants. He currently has seven active Pro Bono Project matrimonial cases. Several of these clients are victims of physical abuse or severe financial exploitation. When asked why he accepts so many Project referrals, Mr. Hellman responded, "I appreciate how difficult it must be for a person to be dealing with a divorce and not able to afford a lawyer. I feel it's important for attorneys to give back to the community. This is a way I can do that." He added, "And, I like the work. I enjoy being in court, and the Pro Bono Project's cases are always interesting."
In addition to operating his busy solo practice, Mr. Hellman is the father of four children, Ashley, Seaver, Matthew and Jared, and the grandfather of two, Alex and Alyvia. He is also a sports fan and spends his free time following the Islanders, the Yankees and the Long Island Ducks. The Pro Bono Project is most grateful for Mr. Hellman's incredible generosity and the excellent advocacy he provides to every referred client. For this reason, it is with great pleasure that we honor him again as the Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.
The Suffolk Pro Bono Project is a joint effort of Nassau Suffolk Law Services, the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Suffolk County Pro Bono Foundation, who, for many years, have joined resources toward the goal of providing free legal assistance to Suffolk County residents who are dealing with economic hardship. Nassau Suffolk Law Services is a non-profit civil legal services agency, providing free legal assistance to Long Islanders, primarily in the areas of benefits advocacy, homelessness prevention (foreclosure and eviction defense), access to health care, and services to special populations such as domestic violence victims, disabled, and adult home resident. The provision of free services is prioritized based on financial need and funding is often inadequate in these areas. Furthermore, there is no funding for the general provision of matrimonial or bankruptcy representation, therefore the demand for pro bono assistance is the greatest in these areas. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Ellen Krakow, Esq. 631 232-2400 x 3323.