This month we are pleased to shine a light on attorney Frederic Wool, who provides an example of how Pro Bono work can be integrated in such a way as to enhance both one’s professional and personal life while making a very meaningful contribution to the lives of the underserved in our community. Mr. Wool actively participates in the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Attorney of the Day Program in the Landlord/Tenant Court in Hempstead on a regular basis, usually one morning per month. Along with Nassau Suffolk Law Services staff attorney, Roberta Scoll, and other pro bono attorneys, he advocates for clients who are in danger of losing their housing through eviction.
Wool was recruited into the Volunteer Lawyers Project several years ago when he was serving as counsel to a landlord whose tenant was represented by a Pro Bono attorney from Nassau Suffolk Law Services. After the case, Roberta Scoll asked him, “What are you doing to give back?” At the time he did not have a good answer, but he remembered his earliest years when he “cut his teeth” on landlord tenant work in Queens and Brooklyn. He knew this was his call to give back to his community by using the knowledge he had acquired long ago. Not that his private practice lacks benevolent purpose. Since adopting his daughter, Cara, now 31, he has practiced adoption law, helping to build loving families. In addition to his expertise in adoption law, he also represents Mercedes-Benz USA in litigation, and various cooperatives and condominium boards. His firm also handles real estate, estate, and personal injury matters Wool’s father served as second in command at (the Air Force) Judge Advocate General’s office. Even though Fred was very young when his father died, the indelible mark he left on his life moved him to become a lawyer. Mr. Wool was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1975 after earning his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law and his B.A. from Hobart & William Smith Colleges.
Although he volunteers in the Landlord/Tenant Court one morning per month, Mr. Wool explains that the time spent can be quite intense though rewarding, for both the pro bono attorney and client. He explains that they try to resolve as many cases as possible between 9:45am and 1:00 in the afternoon. If it is necessary for a case to continue into the afternoon and the volunteer has to return to his regular practice, then Roberta Scoll will jump in during the afternoon session, so there is always back up.
In explaining what he finds most enjoyable about working in the Landlord/Tenant Court he says,” You feel better after having done this type of work. In my regular work I’m representing a large company or non-adversarial adoptions. There is an extra sense of satisfaction in knowing that I have helped people keep their homes. One recent case was especially rewarding because we were able to turn the tables on a landlord who was suing a tenant, who was a lovely woman just trying to get by. As it turned out, the landlord actually owed the tenant money. Cases like this help me to better appreciate that there are good people who are working hard but being hurt by the economy.“ He also explains that while landlord/tenant practice has not changed much since he started practicing law, the economy has changed. Judge Scott Fairgrieve has mentioned the large number of foreclosures in addition to the increasing number of landlord/tenant cases. Therefore, there is always a need for attorneys, like Wool, who are willing to share their time and talents in this area. He observes that while working in this environment, the reality of poverty on Long Island “hits you smack in the face, and forces you not to complain about the little problems in your own life when you see these people concerned about a place to live.”
For his dedication to the Landlord/Tenant Project, the families of Long Island, and for exemplifying the Pro Bono ideal, it is our privilege to honor Frederic A. Wool as Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.
Nancy Zukowski is a volunteer paralegal at Nassau Suffolk Law Services with a paralegal certificate from Suffolk Community College. Ms. Zukowski is also a freelance writer and human rights advocate with extensive professional experience in health insurance claims and health law and has also interned at Nassau Suffolk Law Services, Queens Housing Court, and at private law offices in Suffolk. She is also a member of the Self Advocacy Association of New York.