Access Justice Brooklyn

Legal advocates for our community.

Author Archives: Development Team

  1. Press Release: Access Justice Brooklyn Announces the Appointment of Cooper Bellinson and Aaron Kahen to Young Professionals Board

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    Tuesday, March 19, 2024


    Brooklyn, New York –– Access Justice Brooklyn announces the appointment of two new members to its Young Professionals Board (YPB) following the organization’s Board meeting held on March 7, 2024.

    Joining Access Justice Brooklyn’s YPB is Cooper Bellinson, Associate at Ares Management Corporation, and Aaron Kahen, Associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. Upon their appointment, the new members shared the following:

    “Throughout my life I have had the privilege of having access to business legal services, which have played a fundamental role in getting to me into college and ultimately my job. I am passionate about helping connect others with legal services, so that they can achieve the same freedoms I have benefited from,” said Cooper.

    “As someone who has been active in family law and landlord-tenant pro bono activities, I’m excited to join the AJB YPB board in order to help give back in Brooklyn, where I live and where I love to call home,” said Aaron.

    Through their dedication and diverse expertise, YPB members like Cooper and Aaron play a vital role in expanding programs that cater to the needs of our neighbors in need. “The YPB is thrilled to welcome Aaron and Cooper to our ranks and are looking forward to a productive year supporting Access Justice Brooklyn’s mission,” said Michelle Tuma and Lisa Zivkovic, Access Justice Brooklyn YPB co-chairs.

    Access Justice Brooklyn’s YPB was established to support the organization’s Board of Directors and its goal of making the legal system more accessible and equitable for low-income Brooklyn residents. The YPB unites rising talent professionals across the legal and non-legal sectors who are motivated to utilize their time, experience, and diverse skill sets in service of Access Justice Brooklyn’s mission. The YPB serves as an advisor to and agent of the Board of Directors, driving an array of activities including community outreach and program expansion with a current focus on financial literacy, event planning and fundraising, and providing strategic guidance to the organization.

    Cooper and Aaron join a 5-member Young Professionals Board including: Michelle D. Tuma, Winston & Strawn LLP, co-chair; Lisa V. Zivkovic, Ph.D, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, co-chair; Jacob Godshall, GIC; Keren Goldshlager, Meta; and Wendy Li, BSE Global.

    In Access Justice Brooklyn’s continuing strategic growth efforts, the organization currently seeks to add several new YPB members including dedicated and socially conscious young professionals with a deep commitment to access to justice and who bring innovative ideas and have a passion for helping underserved communities in Brooklyn. Strong leadership abilities, a collaborative spirit, and a network of connections within the legal, nonprofit, or corporate sectors are highly valued.

    About Access Justice Brooklyn:

    Access Justice Brooklyn partners with compassionate pro bono attorneys to provide high-quality, civil legal services that help ensure equal access to the legal system. The organization’s approach prioritizes the most basic, essential elements and experiences of human life, including housing, family stability, and subsistence income. Its proven pro bono model—recruit, train, supervise, and support—also provides flexibility to address new legal issues as they emerge. Everyone, whether an attorney or not, has a role to play in expanding access to justice. Visit or email to volunteer, donate, or find other ways to get involved.

    Press Contact:
    Melissa Starr | Senior Director of Development & Strategic Initiatives | 718-473-9209 |


  2. Our Senior Assistance Program is Growing!

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    We are excited to introduce Access Justice Brooklyn’s newest Staff Attorney, Lorraine Sabalja, who we welcomed to the team in January 2024!

    Lorraine is a former Access Justice Brooklyn volunteer and the 2020 recipient of our Liz Padilla Excellence in Public Service Award for outstanding commitment to pro bono services. She has extensive experience in elder law, including Medicaid, Medicare, estate planning and advance directives. 

    “To be part of an organization committed to doing good, where I can utilize my law practice and leverage that experience in a way to help the community is an incredible gift that lured me to join Access Justice Brooklyn. The opportunity to use my elder law experience to directly empower and educate seniors about the importance of making legal decisions that will allow them to maintain control over critical aspects of their lives and to build awareness of their rights to help them age safely in place, is especially gratifying.  

    I am also thrilled to be part of an organization that empowers and educates other attorneys to learn new areas of practice to help clients move forward with their lives and achieve their goals.  As a former volunteer with Access Justice, and recipient of the Liz Padilla Excellence In Public Service Award, I’ve also had the honor of experiencing firsthand the enrichment and reward that pro bono work can bring. Sharing this enthusiasm with other attorneys will be very exciting. It’s that client and peer interaction, engagement and connection which helps me reconnect to why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place.”

    As Staff Attorney for Access Justice Brooklyn, Lorraine will oversee all aspects of our Senior Assistance Program, including our long-standing Senior Legal Education and Assistance Program (Senior LEAP), which provides legal information and advice to hundreds of seniors throughout Brooklyn each year.

    Expansion of our Senior Assistance Program was made possible in part by generous grants provided by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, Brooklyn Org, and the National Grid Foundation. To learn more about our Senior Assistance Program, click here.

  3. Introducing the Newest Members of Our Legal Services Team!

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    We are excited to introduce Access Justice Brooklyn’s newest Legal Assistant – Isaias Argueta, who we welcomed to the team in November 2023; and Merly Lopez, who we welcomed to the team in January 2024.

    Isaias is a graduate of New York University where he majored in Psychology and minored in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. He has prior experience a case manager at Cayuga Centers, where he oversaw the timely release of unaccompanied minors from federal custody.

    “I am excited to join the Access Justice Brooklyn team because of their mission of achieving a more equitable Brooklyn. I believe that everyone deserves a fair chance at justice and AJB works to meet people where they are while linking them to the resources to empower themselves. I am excited to join the hardworking team at Access Justice Brooklyn so that I may connect Brooklynites to crucial resources needed to to effectively navigate the legal system. With experience as a social worker, I’m accustomed to approaching situations with compassion and empathy. I hope to use my experience to deliver effective and compassionate assistance to those across the borough.”

    Merly is a graduate of New York University where she majored in American Studies and involved with the The Undergraduate Law Review. She has prior experience as an editorial assistant at W. W. Norton and Co. and as a legal intern at Fuchs Rosenzweig, PLLC. Merly was also an organizer for the Workers Circle promoting civic engagement and empowerment as well as a mentor for the Kalos Academy.

    “Growing up as one of the only English speakers in my home, I viscerally experienced the inaccessibility of our legal and political systems early on. This quickly became the fuel for my pursuing a career in law and public advocacy, which is why applying to Access Justice Brooklyn was a no-brainer. The average client at Access Justice Brooklyn, like most low-income Americans, is typically overwhelmed and confused by the legal system from the moment they receive notice of a lawsuit. Organizations like Access Justice Brooklyn are some of the only lifelines available for bridging this profound gap in representation, especially with cases regarding foreclosures and consumer debt. I feel lucky to be able to contribute to a working model of direct service legal support that is committed to not only doing the work in the courts, but also working with communities directly through outreach and policy advocacy. As one of the first points of contact at the organization, I am most excited about the direct service nature of the work we do. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already seen the impact that just listening can have on someone who feels unseen by the larger legal and political systems.”

    As Legal Assistants for Access Justice Brooklyn, Isaias and Merly will conduct intakes with prospective clients, providing information and/or referrals to clients seeking legal assistance as well as support our Legal Services team in foreclosure, consumer debt, bankruptcy, family law, and other practice areas. To learn more about the services we provide, click here.

  4. Press Release: Access Justice Brooklyn Announces the Election of Lauren Zimmerman to Board of Directors

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    Thursday, January 4, 2024


    Brooklyn, New York –– Access Justice Brooklyn announces the election of a new member to its Board of Directors following the organization’s meeting held on Wednesday, December 13, 2023.

    Joining Access Justice Brooklyn’s Board of Directors is Lauren Zimmerman, Partner at Selendy Gay Elsberg PLLC. Upon her election, Lauren shared the following:

    “Access Justice Brooklyn’s vision – of an equitable Brooklyn where everyone knows their rights and has access to legal support – is a vision I passionately share. As a former public defender in Brooklyn, I saw firsthand the challenges our neighbors face when navigating the legal system. In joining Access Justice Brooklyn’s Board, I’m excited to return to this type of work and once again serve the borough I call home.”

    As Access Justice Brooklyn embraces the new year, the organization is focused on bolstering its holistic programming and enhancing the definition of legal services to encompass intersecting challenges and needs. With Brooklyn at its core, Access Justice Brooklyn remains dedicated to closing the justice gap by engaging leaders like Lauren, who share in the values that drive the organization and its work.

    “We are thrilled to welcome Lauren to the Access Justice Brooklyn Board. As an experienced litigator, compassionate advocate, natural connector, and proud Brooklynite, Lauren brings a combined passion and expertise that will significantly impact the advancement of the organization, development of new partnerships, and strengthening of our pioneering pro bono model. She has stepped into her new role with ease and excitement, and I look forward to us working together in service to our Brooklyn community,” said Stephen Z. Williamson, Vice Chair and Board Resource and Governance Committee Co-Chair, Access Justice Brooklyn Board of Directors.

    Lauren will join a 25-member board that oversees Access Justice Brooklyn’s governance and strategic development including: Lynn E. Judell, Rukab Brash PLLC, Chair; Stephen Z. Williamson, Law Office of Stephen Z. Williamson, P.L.L.C., Vice Chair; Scottye Lindsey, Santander Bank, Treasurer; Michael Watson, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Secretary; Jack Aldrich, BlackRock; Daniel Angel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Elena Bonifacio, Google; Lisa Braun, PwC; Caroline Conway, Stonepeak; Akshay Dhiman, Lazard; Brian Fryd, Cornerstone Research; Jeffrey B. Gewirtz, BSE Global; Adam B. Gilbert, Nixon Peabody LLP; Heidi Lee Henderson, Access Justice Brooklyn, President & CEO; Alexander Kaplan, Oppenheim + Zebrak, LLP; Colin S. Kelly, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Melanie Kotler, RenaissanceRe; Mark Lande, Island Capital Group LLC; Trish Lilley, Thompson Coburn LLP;Samuel O. Maduegbuna, Maduegbuna Cooper LLP; Thanya Polonio-Jones, Center for Reproductive Rights; Lee Popkin, Proskauer Rose LLP; Lydia Keaney Reynolds, FARFETCH; Adam Shepherd, Macquarie Group; and William Zichawo, Blackstone.

    Board recruitment efforts continue as Access Justice Brooklyn seeks diverse candidates – lawyers and cross industry professionals – who possess the combined values, dedication, expertise, networks, and skills needed to fulfill the organization’s mission, surpass its goals, secure new stakeholders, and strategically propel Access Justice Brooklyn to new levels of impact.

    About Access Justice Brooklyn:

    Access Justice Brooklyn partners with compassionate pro bono attorneys to provide high-quality, civil legal services that help ensure equal access to the legal system. The organization’s approach prioritizes the most basic, essential elements and experiences of human life, including housing, family stability, and subsistence income. Its proven pro bono model—recruit, train, supervise, and support—also provides flexibility to address new legal issues as they emerge. Everyone, whether an attorney or not, has a role to play in expanding access to justice.

    Visit or email to volunteer, donate, or find other ways to get involved.

    Press Contact:
    Melissa Starr | Senior Director of Development & Strategic Initiatives | 718-473-9209 |


  5. Preserving Legacies in Our Community: One Family at a Time

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    Arturo and his wife moved to the United States from the Philippines in 1974 and settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. After retiring in 2017, they took out a reverse mortgage to cover repair costs for their home. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused financial difficulties in 2020, leading to unpaid taxes and insurance and the bank initiating foreclosure proceedings on their home.

    With the help of Access Justice Brooklyn, they discovered the Equitable Reverse Mortgage Assistance Program. After several months of hard work, we were able to secure the loan for Arturo and his family and settle the foreclosure case with the bank’s attorneys. Arturo’s daughter, Jamie, was overjoyed, saying, “My family was relieved, we could live normally. We can breathe, we didn’t have to pack our bags up and try to find out where to go.” Arturo was equally grateful, saying, “I want to thank Access Justice Brooklyn for doing good for me. I sleep very good and I’m very happy.”

    Arturo is one of many struggling to recover from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Access Justice Brooklyn’s team of experienced attorneys and advocates are committed to helping our neighbors get back on their feet. But we cannot do it alone.

    With your support, we can continue to provide a pathway to a more secure future for thousands of Brooklynites just like Arturo and his family.

    Stand with Access Justice Brooklyn: Together, we can create a more just Brooklyn by supporting our neighbors with a gift online today!

  6. Governor Hochul Signs Deed Theft and Notary Bill

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    On Tuesday, November 14, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to protect New Yorkers from deed theft, a practice in which property owners are defrauded out of the property titles to their homes.

    The new legislation, S.6577/A.6656, strengthens existing protections against deed theft by giving the Attorney General and local District Attorneys the power to pause eviction and ownership disputes while investigating or litigating deed theft cases. The law also increases the range of crimes that prosecutors can use to invalidate fraudulent sale and loan documents, among other measures. Governor Hochul signed the bill in Brooklyn, where the Attorney General, legal services advocates, members of the Legislature, and victims of deed theft were present. To read the official press release and watch the bill signing, click here.

    On November 1, 2023, Governor Hochul signed “Notary Bill” eliminating the burdensome and often discriminatory process of requiring documents to be notarized in civil matters!

    The new legislation, S.5162/A.5772, allows parties in civil disputes to make sworn statements without the need for notarization. With the enactment of this law, New York joins the federal government and more than 20 other states in eliminating the burdensome and often discriminatory process of notarizing documents in civil matters.

    Access Justice Brooklyn is proud to have advocated for the passage of both S.6577/A.6656 and S.5162/A.5772. Thank you to Governor Hochul for making the legal system more accessible to New Yorkers!

    New Yorkers are encouraged to report deed theft and other scams to the Attorney General’s office by calling 800-771-7755 or filing a complaint here.

    Access Justice Brooklyn provides foreclosure intervention and prevention services to support Brooklyn homeowners. To learn more about our Homeowners Assistance program and access resources, click here.

  7. Celebrate Pro Bono Week!

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    Pro Bono Week takes place every year in October and celebrates the pro bono ethic of the thousands of professionals who volunteer their skills and expertise to support nonprofits all around the world!

    In joining the festivities, Access Justice Brooklyn thanks our wonderful, dedicated volunteers who provide critical legal services to our clients year round. Your generosity allows us to continue our efforts to ensure a more accessible legal system for our neighbors in need. We look forward to continuing to work together in creating a more equitable Brooklyn where everyone knows their rights and has access to legal support!

    Access Justice Brooklyn provides opportunities for volunteers from various legal backgrounds and range from recent law school graduates to seasoned attorneys, to give back to the Brooklyn community and to develop experience in new practice areas. Volunteers outside the legal profession engage with us through various prevention-oriented services including “know your rights” trainings, financial counseling, and community education forums.

    Join us in celebrating Pro Bono Week and learn more about our amazing volunteers including Steven Zelkowitz, Sophia K. Barclay, James A. Maleady, and Jennifer L. Colyer who were honored at our Volunteer Recognition Event held earlier this year; view our list of impactful law firm and corporate pro bono partners; attend our upcoming virtual trainings (see below), and start volunteering today!

    Please contact Anne O’Grady, Pro Bono Director at to learn more about our pro bono model and volunteer opportunities for individuals, law firms and companies, and other business professionals. 

    Upcoming Trainings:

    Capital Region and Central New York Bankruptcy Bar Associations’ 27th Annual Bankruptcy Conference, November 3-4, 2023
    Cooperstown, New York On Friday November 3, 2023, from 4:15 PM to 5:05 PM, Access Justice Brooklyn’s Director of Legal Services, Sidney Cherubin, will be presenting a special CLE on Understanding Implicit Bias and Ways to Mitigate It alongside Ramona Morel, Project Director at Consumer Bankruptcy Project and Advisor for DEI Initiatives at City Bar Justice Center.

    Introduction to Drafting a Will, Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 3:00–5:00 PM via Zoom
    Presented by: Rosanna Roizin, Partner, Tarter Krinksy & Drogin LLP
    Moderated by: Sidney Cherubin, Director of Legal Services, Access Justice Brooklyn
    CLE Credit: 2 CLE credits available.

    Advanced CLARO Training (Track II): Assisting CLARO Clients with Motions, Friday, November 3, 2023, 1:30–5:00 PM via Zoom
    Presented by: Johanna Ocaña, Fordham Law School, Feerick Center for Social Justice; Marcella B. Silverman, Fordham Law School, Consumer Litigation Clinic; and Matthew Schedler, CAMBA Legal Services Inc.
    CLE Credit: 3.5 CLE credits available.

    The New York Judicial Foreclosure Process: Rules, Changes, and Updates
    Thursday, November 16, 2023, 3:00–5:00
    PM via Zoom

    Presented by: Peter S. White II, Supervising Attorney, Access Justice Brooklyn; and Aaron Scheinwald, Staff Attorney, Access Justice Brooklyn
    Moderated by: Bella Nunes, Legal Assistant, Access Justice Brooklyn
    CLE Credit: 2 CLE credits available.

    Introduction to Consumer Bankruptcy, Tuesday, November 28, 2023, 3:00–5:00 PM via Zoom
    Presented by: Sheldon Barasch, Supervising Attorney, DC37; and Bruce Weiner, Partner, Rosenberg, Musso & Weiner, LLP
    CLE Credit: 2 CLE credits available.

  8. Access Justice Brooklyn Celebrates 2023 Gala at Brooklyn Museum

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    Access Justice Brooklyn held our annual Gala on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, at the Brooklyn Museum. We were delighted to welcome back Melissa Russo, Government Affairs and Investigative Reporter, NBC 4 New York, and tremendous advocate of our work, as Emcee. Melissa once again guided us through an evening of celebration, as we recognized extraordinary individuals and innovative leaders who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to serving the public good and Access Justice Brooklyn’s impactful programming. Congratulations to our honorees and award recipients: Dedication to Justice Awardee Faith Gay, Founding Partner, Selendy Gay Elsberg PLLC; Tradition of Excellence Awardee Nicki Livanos, Director, Real Estate Investments, Equitable; Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Gbenga Oyebode, Founder and Of Counsel, Aluko & Oyebode; and Champion of Justice Awardee AXA XL.

    We are incredibly grateful to all our supporters and guests! A special thank you to our Platinum Sponsor: A great friend of Access Justice Brooklyn; Gold Sponsors: Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, Madison International Realty, and Selendy Gay Elsberg PLLC; and exclusive Video Sponsor: Aluko & Oyebode. For a complete list of our 2023 Sponsors, click here.

    Thank you to our Gala Host Committee members: Access Justice Brooklyn Board Members Caroline Conway, Managing Director, Legal, Stonepeak; Akshay Dhiman, Managing Director – Power, Energy & Infrastructure M&A, Lazard; Gala Chair, Adam Gilbert, Partner, Nixon Peabody LLP; Trish Lilley, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer, Thompson Coburn LLP, Samuel O. Maduegbuna, Founding Partner, Maduegbuna Cooper LLP; and Adam Shepherd, Managing Director, Macquarie Group and Board president, Lynn E. Judell, Counsel, Rukab Brash PLLC; as well as Advisory Board Members James Hallowell, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Stephen P. Younger, Senior Counsel, Nixon Peabody LLP; and former Gala honoree Janice Mac Avoy, Partner, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.

    As Access Justice Brooklyn’s premier fundraising event, funds raised for the Gala strengthen our vital work and impact throughout the borough. For more information about our honorees, sponsors, and program, click here.

  9. Summer 2023: Meeting Neighbors Where They Are!

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    From free homeowner workshops in East New York to street fairs in Park Slope and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, our staff and volunteers have been busy providing quality legal services and education to our neighbors borough-wide.

    We kicked off the summer season with The Dream Squad and The Arthur Project’s Carnival Resource Fair at the Meyer Levin School for the Performing Arts on Saturday, June 3rd, where we got to enjoy live performances from the The Meyer Levin Steel Orchestra, dance performances, and more.

    On Wednesday, June 7th, Access Justice Brooklyn and City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse hosted a Homeowner Help Workshop in partnership with NHS Brooklyn. Despite the air quality advisory in New York City that day, we were able to assist nearly 20 homeowners with late-stage foreclosure and Department of Building violations and complaints. Read more about the event here.

    The following week, we celebrated Pride Month by participating in the Brooklyn Pride Festival & Parade held in Park Slope on Saturday, June 10th. We also attended the Brooklyn Community Board 2 & Friends of Commodore Barry Park Health Fair also held that same weekend near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    On Friday, August 11th, we helped neighbors gearing up for back to school at the NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, East New York Resource Fair and Back to School Giveaway. Neighbors received free school supplies while Access Justice Brooklyn and other participating organizations shared valuable resources with families in Ozone Park.

    Through our continued partnership with NHS Brooklyn and Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse, we held our second event Homeowner Help Workshop on Thursday, August 17th at her district office. Over 30 homeowners were able to meet one-on-one with housing counselors and attorneys for help with foreclosure, Department of Buildings violations, and other homeowner concerns.

    We closed out the summer vacation with two Back to School events hosted by Councilmember Sandy Nurse held on Saturday, August 19th at Thomas Boyland Park and Sunday, August 27th at Highland Park.

    Before we officially say goodbye to summer, we will be participating once again in Senator Roxanne Persaud’s Annual Senate District 19 Senior Resource Fair to be held on Thursday, September 7th at her district office! This annual event provides seniors with information about health care, mental health and wellness resources, City and State agencies, community organizations and more.

    Click here to view our calendar for more upcoming events!

  10. Highlighting Access Justice Brooklyn’s Summer Interns on National Intern Day

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    National Intern Day is July 27, 2023, and to celebrate we are delighted to introduce, highlight, and celebrate Access Justice Brooklyn’s Summer Interns! As an organization operating with a full-time program staff of fourteen, our interns play an especially critical role in our day-to-day work and impact.

    Sarah Genchanok, Rising 2L, Brooklyn Law School, NYSBA Catalyst Public Service Fellowship Recipient 
    “I was interested in interning at Access Justice Brooklyn because of the opportunity to provide direct assistance to the Brooklyn community for a variety of legal matters. So far, I’ve gained hands-on experience on how to best assist and advocate for clients by appearing on the record on behalf of pro se litigants in Civil Court and learned how to discuss potential resolutions and settlements with opposing counsel. I am incredibly grateful to the organization’s staff and our supervising attorneys for their guidance!”

    Sydney Korman, Rising 2L, Brooklyn Law School, NYSBA Catalyst Public Service Fellowship Recipient 
    “I was drawn to interning with Access Justice Brooklyn due to its mission of promoting a fair and accessible legal system. This opportunity has been immensely valuable, providing me with practical legal skills that can only be learned through hands-on experience. Moreover, I’ve gained a profound understanding of what it means to ardently advocate for clients.”

    Caroline Strauss, Rising 2L, Brooklyn Law School, NYSBA Catalyst Public Service Fellowship Recipient 
    “I was interested in interning with Access Justice Brooklyn because of their commitment to ensuring a more accessible legal system. I have had the opportunity to learn how to best advocate for my clients by doing hands-on work in real time including writing discovery orders and order of dismissals, taking part in settlement negotiations, and writing settlement stipulations, and arguing motions in front of the presiding judge.” I’ve gained a lot of confidence thus far, and I look forward to learning even more in these last weeks of my summer internship.”

    From conducting intake to staffing legal clinics and representing clients on civil legal matters, our interns are making a long-lasting difference in the lives of those who are often overlooked and underserved.

    We are incredibly grateful and proud of their compassion and dedication to Access Justice Brooklyn and those we serve! For more information about volunteering with Access Justice Brooklyn, visit: