Oakland-based litigator Erin Smart recently made her first donation to VLSC, and has also joined us as a volunteer at our Family Law Clinic. We asked Erin to tell us a little bit about herself and why she decided to become a VLSC supporter.
What inspired you to make your first gift to VLSC?
VLSC makes a local impact and leverages the value of every dollar donated by using volunteers and pro bono attorneys to provide services well beyond the dollar value of the donations it receives. As attorneys we don’t always have the time to volunteer or take on a pro bono case, but organizations like VLSC allow even attorneys with a hectic work life to provide legal services to low income members of our community.
Tell us about your practice.
As a freelance litigator assisting solos and small firms with temporary needs such as additional help for large projects, coverage for absent employees, and scheduling conflicts, I get to experience a variety of practice areas, courts, and litigation styles. After practicing at a large law firm for six years, where I focused on antitrust, intellectual property, and securities litigation, I enjoy the opportunity that contract work gives me to volunteer in the community and spend time with family and friends in addition to practicing law. I find that as an independent contractor, I am often contacted for assistance with highly interesting parts of a case — depositions, court hearings, and complex motions — which makes my practice extremely rewarding.
If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you choose?
I long harbored a half-fantasy of being a Spanish-language interpreter. I studied Spanish in college and lived abroad for two years. Although I took classes in translation and interpretation and temporarily considered that career path, the law has long been my true passion. Still, I’m always glad to have the chance to use my Spanish-language skills in my legal work when the opportunity arises.
What would you want to share with others about the impact of pro bono work in our community?
In addition to allowing attorneys to accept pro bono matters, VLSC staffs multiple clinics to assist self-represented individuals. As a volunteer for VLSC’s family law clinic, I see self-represented individuals have to take time off of work, navigate confusing court logistics, obtain court orders, and quickly master legal concepts such as service and evidentiary standards, just to carry out everyday parenting activities.
The level of need and the abundance of appreciation that exists for pro bono and volunteer services in our community makes even a short volunteer commitment valuable to the public and rewarding to the attorney.