The Suffolk Pro Bono Project is pleased to honor Professor Lewis A. Silverman as its Pro Bono Attorney of the Month. Professor Silverman has devoted a substantial amount of time, effort and expertise to providing free legal assistance to low-income matrimonial clients. He previously received this award, primarily for his leadership at Touro Law Center’s Family Law Clinic. It is his most recent individual contribution to the Pro Bono Project that has earned him this distinction once again.
Lewis Silverman is the Director of the Family Law Clinic and Associate Professor of Clinical Law at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. In addition to his many responsibilities at Touro, which include managing the Family Law Clinic, providing technical advise to the Uncontested Divorce Clinic, and teaching (Family Law, Civil Procedure, and Rights of Minor Children), over the past year-and-a-half, Professor Silverman has interviewed and consulted with a substantial portion of the Project’s prospective pro bono divorce clients.
Since taking on this volunteer role in June of 2013, Professor Silverman has interviewed more than 70 prospective Project clients, vetting each case and preparing a detailed written summary and legal analysis with recommendations, in order to facilitate an appropriate pro bono attorney match. In addition to gathering the essential information, Silverman also educates the clients about the judicial process, their legal rights, and reasonable expectations for the litigation. This consultation/interview is an important aspect of the intake process in order to address any misunderstandings or unsound expectations the client may have. In addition, Silverman serves as mentor to the Project’s less-experienced attorneys representing clients in divorce matters.
Silverman’s expertise and insight on potentially complicated divorce cases has been a great help to the Project. We value his experience in assisting us to sort through these cases and make the best possible pro bono assignments, states Maria Dosso, Director of Volunteer Services at Nassau Suffolk Law Services. We are fortunate to have someone with Professor Silverman’s expertise and background donating his time and helping us to meet the heavy demand for legal representation in matrimonial cases. Thanks to his thorough screening, we are able to make referrals with reasonable assurance that the case is appropriate for pro bono representation.
After receiving his J.D. degree from Boston University School of Law in 1976, Professor Silverman’s legal career began at the Suffolk County Attorney’s Office, where he first served as Assistant Suffolk County Attorney and later became Supervising Attorney of the Abuse/Neglect Unit and Deputy Family Court Bureau Chief. In October 1985, he was appointed as a Family Court Hearing Examiner, a position he held for nine years. During most of his tenure, he also served as president of the New York Hearing Examiners Association. When the Child Support Standards Act was drafted, Silverman’s comments were solicited by both the Legislature and the Governor’s office.
In January 1995, Professor Silverman joined Touro Law Center’s faculty as a Law Professor and became Director of Touro’s then newly founded Family Law Clinic, a position he still holds today. The clinic is comprised of, on average, eight law students in their final two semesters of law school, who are given live client experience in Family Court and Supreme Court on primarily child support, custody and visitation matters, and occasionally divorce. With Professor Silverman’s oversight, the students engage in all phases of the matter, from initial client interview through trial. Annually, the clinic conducts approximately 150 client screenings and provides legal assistance ranging from advice and counsel to full representation.
In addition, Silverman serves as the technical advisor to Touro’s First Year Matrimonial Project, a program he helped create in 2013. Students in this program help pro se clients prepare their court filings for uncontested divorces. The Pro Bono Project has worked in tandem with the First Year Matrimonial Project since its inception by referring dozens of divorce plaintiffs to its clinic, in order to help meet the great demand for free matrimonial legal services. This is just another example of the cooperative pro bono partnership Law Services enjoys with Touro Law Center.
Silverman is not the first in his family to provide voluntary legal assistance to clients of Nassau Suffolk Law Services. His father, Julian Silverman, a long time case worker with Suffolk County Adult Protective Services, served as a volunteer paralegal in the Mental Health Law Project Unit for many years, after retiring from APS, and was Law Services’ first non-lawyer recipient of a Pro Bono Project recognition award.
Professor Silverman has been a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association since 1977. He served as an officer of the Suffolk Academy of Law from 1987 to 1991 and was the first chair of the Family Court Committee. He also served as chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Social Services and Law Guardian Task Force. Silverman’s other professional memberships include the American Bar Association and the International Society of Family Law. He is a frequent lecturer for both the Suffolk County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association on various family law and sexual-orientation related topics. He contributes articles on topics of interest to the New York Law Journal and The Suffolk Lawyer and serves as a media advisor on occasion.
The Pro Bono Project is indebted to Professor Silverman for his decades-long dedication to providing pro bono legal assistance to the less fortunate on Long Island. It is with great pleasure that we honor him once again as 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.
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