JF&CS News Fall 2011
The 2011 recipient of the Simone Lottor Exceptional Service Award is Donald R. Lassman for his tireless and expert work on behalf of JF&CS clients in need of legal services. The award is presented annually to a volunteer whose efforts have made a significant contribution to the community.
Don has been a dedicated and active volunteer attorney for JF&CS Bet Tzedek Legal Services since 2008. In that time he has represented nine clients in bankruptcy and related issues, providing more than seventy hours of pro bono legal services.
"This work is extremely rewarding. I've met wonderful and interesting people at JF&CS and made connections with the clients. It's a very fulfilling opportunity," said Don.
When Don meets clients for the first time, they are typically at a very low point, feeling vulnerable and scared, emotionally drained, harassed by creditors. Some are jobless and for many, English is not their first language. Treating each one with dignity and respect, Don works closely with JF&CS case managers, carefully learning the specifics of their situations, preparing the bankruptcy filing, and representing them in court.
"Don is a true advocate on behalf of our clients. In even the most difficult scenarios he is kind and patient, and pursues all opportunities to obtain the best possible outcome for each client. We could not ask for a more committed and professional volunteer to serve on our Bet Tzedek panel," said Rachel Pemstein, Esq., Director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
Over the past three years, Don has been showered with cards and letters from grateful clients. One recent client, Ann, was overwhelmed by debt and living in a single room, paying rent that was half of her monthly earnings.
After her case was resolved, she wrote, "I shall be grateful to you for the rest of my life. I can hardly believe that I have been released from my insurmountable debt. I have never felt so free in my life. I thank you for donating your time to help me…for enabling me to live again and begin anew. I shall always remember you with a heart full of joy for your deeds of loving kindness."
"Knowing I played a part in helping Ann improve the quality of her life is an indescribable feeling," said Don. "Bankruptcy stops the harassment by creditors. Clients are relieved of their debt and the continual emotional trauma of endless calls and letters. They get a fresh start. You can see that you've done a good deed."
For many people who need legal advice, the cost of a private attorney can be an insurmountable barrier. Every year, Bet Tzedek provides access to free, civil legal services to more than 350 people in desperate situations who could not otherwise afford an attorney. Bet Tzedek relies heavily on the generosity of its volunteer attorney panel to provide services to its clients.
"Working with JF&CS, you can see that you're a part of a complete solution, because many clients have hardships beyond their financial struggle. You're part of a puzzle - Bet Tzedek helps them with their legal needs and JF&CS has the skill set to deal with the other issues," said Don.
He added, "With other clients, you wonder what they're going to do after they walk out of the courtroom. With JF&CS, you know they won't flounder after the bankruptcy. That's unique."
Don is a sole practitioner in Needham, where he lives with his wife, Amy, and their two children. He is chairman of the board of Temple Aliyah and has also been recognized for his work with the Boston Bar Association to provide legal assistance to veterans, active duty personnel, and their families.
We congratulate Don on his receipt of this award and express our sincere gratitude for his work with Bet Tzedek.
For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.