Debra Weinrich is a Partner in the Healthcare Practice Group. Her bio is available here.
Tell us about your recent pro bono experience.
I have had the pleasure of working with Philadelphia’s Support Center for Child Advocates (SCCA) for many years. SCCA is an organization dedicated to advocating for victims of child abuse and neglect with the goal of securing safety, justice, well-being and a permanent, nurturing environment for every child. As such, I act as a child advocate representing the interests of child clients when they become involved in the Philadelphia Family Court system after incidents of abuse and/or neglect. I work closely with the SCCA’s staff attorneys and social workers to help ensure each child’s interests are represented and in an effort to achieve SCCA’s goals.
What prompted you to get involved in pro bono service?
I have had an interest in representing children in this way since before I became a lawyer, having looked into becoming a child advocate while I was still in law school. While I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I was drawn to this area of pro bono service, I think it likely was at some point when I was a Labor & Delivery nurse who was exposed to some horrible family circumstances, including seeing drug addicted babies delivered and suffering from withdrawal in a NICU setting. I was interested in trying to help children who were in potentially dangerous and/or harmful circumstances more than I could by simply trying to educate parents as a nurse at the bedside.
How did you select an organization to support? What would you want someone to know about the organization?
Based on my earlier interest in child advocacy, I became a member of White and Williams’ Child Advocacy Practice Group while I was a junior associate and have continued to work to try to help abused and neglected children ever since. I am thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with the SCCA’s knowledgeable and dedicated team who do their very best to help keep Philadelphia’s children safe. I learn from them constantly and am inspired by their full-time support of what I consider the City’s most vulnerable population.
What value does pro bono service provide you and your clients?
When I was a young attorney working as a child advocate, this work helped me expand my legal knowledge and experience. It gave back to me in that professional way and continues to do so. But more importantly, it continues to provide me a way to give back to my community. There is satisfaction in knowing I try my best to have a positive impact on my child clients’ circumstances, which may ultimately have a long term impact on their lives. I have found there is essentially nothing more gratifying than seeing an infant or child thrive in better circumstances. Simply said, the “work” gives back more than I could give.
Why should other lawyers get involved in pro bono service?
I encourage all of my attorney friends and colleagues to consider becoming a child advocate. Unfortunately, there are always children who are in need of representation and help.
What advice do you have for lawyers who want to get involved in pro bono service?
I would recommend that lawyers who want to get involved in pro bono service find an area where they have a specific interest. I feel strongly that someone will be more dedicated and fulfilled when working on something they are passionate about. In my case it was at-risk children. For others it may be seniors, the homeless, battered women, or any number of other individuals or groups. There certainly is a cause worthy of your time and energy.