We are pleased to honor the talents of a rising star, Steven E. Snair. From June through September, 2011, Mr. Snair devoted 15-20 hours weekly volunteering with Nassau Suffolk Law Services’ Civil Unit. The Civil Unit in Law Services’ Islandia office, provides legal representation to low income people in eviction proceedings, Section 8 hearings, and advocacy in public housing and landlord/tenant disputes. Mr. Snair, of course, accepted the challenge graciously.
Snair explained that this pro bono position attracted him because, “it provided an opportunity to prevent homelessness while gaining a valuable learning experience.” He was previously employed and left to begin his own practice. The Suffolk County Bar Association referred him to Law Services because he was seeking court experience. When he first came to Law Services, he knew very little about landlord tenant law, however he credits staff attorneys, Tom Smigelski and Marissa Luchs Kindler, with being excellent teachers. “Having learned everything I needed to know from the foremost experts in this field of the law, I felt well prepared to handle cases from start to finish.” Throughout his service he has successfully represented clients in the District Courts in Patchogue, Ronkonkoma, Lindenhurst, and Huntington.
Mr. Snair is a lifelong resident of Kings Park and graduated from C.W. Post with a B.S. in Business Administration in 2004. He was motivated to study the law by his desire to help people. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Widener University Law School in 2010. During his internship with the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Public Defender’s Office, he discovered that he enjoyed the fast pace of civil litigation work and serving the needs of regular people because he has “that underdog” spirit. Inspired by the television series Law and Order, he’d like to be another Jack McCoy.
In fact, being able to help people who otherwise would not have access to legal representation is what Snair enjoyed most about volunteering in the Landlord Tenant Courts. “The epidemic of bullying doesn’t stop after school. Some landlords try to bully tenants and it feels good to see the look in their eyes when they come to court and see that the tenant has an attorney.”
Serving in the Civil Unit also made him more aware of the difficult economic problems being faced by so many people in Suffolk County today. “You see a lot of the same patterns: unemployment, landlords depending on tenants [for income], the lack of affordable housing.”
He also learned the important role served by volunteer attorneys within the courts. “Even though there are landlords and tenants who take advantage of the system, more often than not, with the economy so bad there is more need than ever for legal services. The calendar may have 100-150 evictions every week and money judgments are obtained for apartments that are not even livable.” He observed that there are too many pro se cases going before the judges. “It creates a backlog where it may take a lay person as much as two or more weeks to be heard. It’s a shame to see so many people denied access to representation and to justice.”
As he embarks on the next phase of his career Mr. Snair feels that the time he spent volunteering in the landlord tenant courts has “absolutely enhanced my practice because I previously was not as familiar with this area of the law. There are only a handful of attorneys experienced in this area.” Now that he has started his own practice, he still serves, albeit less frequently. He encourages other attorneys to volunteer their time in this effort because it provides opportunities to “learn a new area of law, meet new people, develop a better relationship with the courts, and make a big impact on the lives of the people you serve.”
For going above and beyond the call we are proud to award Steven Snair with the honor of being named Pro Bono Attorney of the Month and wish him luck and prosperity as he embarks on the next stage in his career.