By Michael Petro, originally published in Buffalo Business First on 3/23/15.

Free legal services to be provided at Buffalo Public Schools

The Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, along with Western New York law firms, have stepped forward to provide free legal advice to Buffalo Public School students and their families through a partnership between the district and Say Yes Buffalo.

The Say Yes legal clinics, which are open in four Buffalo Public School buildings, will be staffed by pro bono volunteer lawyers from local firms Phillips Lytle LLP; Hodgson Russ LLP; Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP; Hiscock & Barclay LLP; and Harris Beach PLLC. Gibson, McAskill, & Crosby, LLP will soon be joining this effort.

Representatives from Buffalo Public Schools, Say Yes Buffalo and the Buffalo-area law firms participating will take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the start of the program on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Buffalo Public School No. 18, Dr. Antonia Pantoja Community School of Academic Excellence, 750 West Avenue.

“This is a vital social service for our students and their families,” said Buffalo Public Schools Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie. “The ability to navigate legal issues that stand in the way of success is a priceless step toward improved quality-of-life.”

Legal advice is available for non-criminal matters including adoption, bankruptcy, child custody, child support, divorce, eviction/foreclosure, government benefits, housing, immigration and income tax, according to the VLP and Say Yes Buffalo.

The legal clinics run Monday through Thursday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. On Mondays, the clinic is at Dr. Antonia Pantoja Community School of Academic Excellence, 750 West Avenue; Tuesdays at South Park High School, 150 Southside Parkway; Wednesdays at Dr. George E. Blackman School of Excellence, Early Childhood Center, 2358 Main Street; and Thursdays at East High School, 820 Northampton Street.

“We are excited to see another needed service be offered to Buffalo students and families,” said David Rust, the executive director of Say Yes Buffalo. “There are often legal issues at home that affect a student’s ability to be successful in the classroom.”

Hon. Hugh Scott, a Magistrate Judge of United States District Court for the Western District of New York, and Robert Elardo of the VLP co-chaired the legal task force which planned and rolled out the clinics and recruited volunteer firms and attorneys to provide free legal services.