Ask any non-profit organization or charity what type of contribution is most valuable – time, talent or treasure – and they will be hard pressed to choose just one. The law firm of Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. has set the bar high in Broward County, contributing all three to Legal Aid Service of Broward County (LAS) and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida (CCLA).
The firm’s tag line, Justice For All, is truly a way of life for these attorneys. “One of the core values and beliefs of our firm is to continue to fight to keep the courthouse doors open to all,” explains Gary Farmer. “We believe that means even those who can’t afford a lawyer. Helping the less fortunate is who we are at Farmer Jaffe Weissing.” The firm’s contributions to LAS and CCLA have been meaningful to the organizations as well as to the clients they serve.
For attorneys, donating time can be likened to making a financial contribution; we all know about billable hours. But donating personal time comes directly from the heart, and is a true indication of individual priorities and commitment. Firm partner Steve Jaffe gives of his time by serving as a Director for LAS and CCLA. He is the 2016 Board Secretary and will ascend to Board Chair in 2018, and has been providing leadership and oversight to the organizations as well as advocating for and representing them in the community for the past three years.
The Florida Bar encourages attorneys to donate a minimum of twenty hours to a pro bono program like Legal Aid’s Broward Lawyers Care. In 2015, Steve Jaffe volunteered to handle a case for a former Special Forces disabled veteran involving housing conditions. Jaffe is a vocal supporter of the Mission United Veterans Pro Bono Project at Legal Aid, adding that “Understanding what Veterans have given of themselves for this country it should be a requirement that everyone give a little back to help Veterans. It returns the best of the best feeling.”
Jaffe invited Nova law student Brittany Henderson to assist with the case as his mentee. The two logged in excess of 150 hours successfully advocating for a safe housing environment for the veteran and his family. Full relief was obtained for the veteran, including complete recovery on all of their claims and damages. Henderson is now an associate with the firm and a proponent of pro bono work as well. She explains, “I am not aware of many young lawyers who have been afforded the opportunity to work on a case from inception and see it through to conclusion only three months into their career. This speaks volumes about Steve Jaffe as a boss and a mentor, but I think it also speaks volumes about the difference that Legal Aid makes in the lives of both clients and lawyers alike.”
Farmer Jaffe Weissing has also been a generous financial supporter of LAS and CCLA over the years, making annual sponsorship commitments and supporting events such as the signature fundraisers, For the Public Good and Bridge to Justice. They also are very instrumental in directing significant cy pres awards to the organizations.
Firm Partner Seth Lehrman believes that legal aid organizations are deserving and appropriate recipients for the undelivered monies in many class action cases. “Cy Pres Awards to Legal Aid allow justice obtained in one case to lead directly to justice in many other cases. Financial awards empower Legal Aid to seek access to justice for indigent and otherwise disadvantaged people. Class action cases, like the ones that we pursue, share a common purpose with Legal Aid by focusing on access to justice.” He further explains that, “In a class action settlement, the parties and the court seek to deliver all settlement monies to class members because the case and the settlement was brought for the benefit of the class and to get justice for them. However, frequently some settlement monies simply cannot be delivered to class members. This is when a legal aid organization can become an appropriate and deserving recipient.”
Farmer Jaffe Weissing has made an indelible impression and impact on the pro bono landscape. Through their dedicated actions and commitment, the firm inspires, encourages and challenges other law firms to do whatever they can, be it Time, Talent or Treasure… or maybe even all three! To learn more about LAS and CCLA and how you can make a difference, visit www.browardlegalaid.org.
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