Nassau Suffolk Law Services and the Suffolk Pro Bono Project are proud to honor Anneris M. Peña, as Pro Bono Attorney for the Month of June 2013. Mrs. Peña has been a valuable asset to the Project, volunteering many hours in bankruptcy and matrimonial cases where the greatest demand for pro bono services exists.
Mrs. Peña grew up in the South Bronx and since her high school days, worked in law firms gathering valuable information and learning about the practice and procedural aspects of the law. This learning experience continued throughout her college days at L.I.U. CW Post majoring in Finance, while she worked nights and weekends at several law firms in New York City. So, even before she started her formal legal education at St. Johns Law School, Mrs. Pena was well on her way to developing her legal skills. After receiving her law degree in 1997, she joined a firm in Syosset where she practiced foreclosure and bankruptcy law and made good use of her background in finance. It was a perfect fit and she was soon promoted to manager of the bankruptcy division.
After marrying and starting a family, she found that balancing family life and work was a challenge. So eventually she preferred to be self-employed and worked on her caseload at her own pace making her own hours. She worked on cases involving Litigation, Real Estate, Wills and Estates but her strong point was always her bankruptcy practice.
During this time, Mrs. Pena went through her own challenges, especially after a divorce that took a financial and emotional toll. But ironically, this experience is also what piqued her interest in family law. She started sitting in on family court hearings and learning about the practice by observing the proceedings. After several months, she decided to branch out further into this area of the law. She joined the Suffolk Bar Association, learned about the Pro Bono Project and decided to take a couple of matrimonial cases with the assistance of a mentor. She attended CLEs at the Bar Association and thoroughly did her homework in preparation for the representation. “I don’t take my legal education nor my representation of clients lightly, especially since your family is the most important part of your life, along with your finances.”
Her motivation to do pro bono work has always been about giving back. After doing an internship in the Bronx Criminal Court and working in various law firms in the City, she witnessed crime, poverty and many broken homes. Mrs. Pena comments, “After all I’ve seen, there was a time I thought the last thing I would ever want would be to work on cases involving family related turmoil. Now that’s exactly what I want!” When asked what motivates her to do pro bono work she says, “I went through my own divorce which was financially and emotionally costly. I don’t understand how people of little or no means can manage it. I am now very happily remarried, have been very blessed in my life and I just want to make a difference.” She goes on to comment, “As attorneys, we are very privileged in this profession. Many people are not. Doing pro bono can make such a difference in someone else’s life. In the whole scheme of life, how hard is it to take some hours out of your week and give a little back?”
In her personal life, Mrs. Pena takes her parenting role very seriously. She commented on how mothers who are attorneys have to find that balance between their work and parenthood. As an involved mother, she is a Girls Scout volunteer and finds this gives her more time with her daughter and has helped her to find that balance.
Mrs. Pena’s contribution to the Pro Bono Project has been very valuable, especially as she is able to help out with the Spanish speaking clients. “She is a true model of a conscientious and dedicated attorney, giving her best to all her clients, without regard to whether they are pro bono or paying clients,” says Maria Dosso, Director of Communications and Volunteer Services. Anneris M. Peña, is an inspiration and an example of what it means to give generously in the true spirit of pro bono. We are proud to count her on the panel and to bestow her with the honor of Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.