CAP Pro Bono Volunteer of the Month-April 2020
Jennifer D. Golanics of Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara LLP
Jennifer attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, a Juris Doctorate (Boyd School of Law) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology. Her background is in the areas of general liability law, labor and employment law, family law, contract law and commercial litigation.
Since 2005, Jennifer has been involved in advocating for abused and neglected children, placed in foster care, with disabilities. First, through the Thomas and Mack Legal Clinic at Boyd School of Law, and then through LACSN’s Surrogate Parent Initiative. After becoming an attorney, through LACSN’s Pro Bono Project, she has represented abused and neglected children placed in foster care. Her firm, Bremer Whyte Brown O’Meara, LLP, became involved with LACSN after hearing of the immense need for legal assistance for abused children from Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez in May 2015. The firm committed that each one of its Las Vegas attorneys would accept a case on behalf of a child victim of abuse or neglect; training all of its attorneys, the Law Firm accepted approximately 25 to 30 cases.
Jennifer has also further provided consultations as a part of the Federal, Small Business, Family, and Veteran Ask-A-Lawyer programs. For the past three years, she has been honored by LACSN for providing over 100 hours of Pro Bono service per year. In addition, she is currently a member of the National Association of Counsel for Children and a board member for Family and Child Treatment of Southern Nevada.
When asked why she does pro bono work, Jennifer’s response was “The real question is ‘Why not?’ Why not give a voice to the voiceless? Why not teach people how to advocate for themselves? Why not provide equal access to the law? Practicing law is a privilege, and with it, comes responsibility. A law license is more than a piece of paper, it is power. Most of my life, I have been a fan of superheroes and by far Spider-Man has always been my favorite. Great men have said “[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility.” S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: “Spider-Man,” p. 13 (1962). Further, attorneys “are bound by a responsibility to use our unique skills and training-not just to advance cases, but to serve a cause; and to help our nation fulfill its founding promise of equal justice under law.” Former U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder. Moreover, pro bono work takes this idea one step further, not only do you advocate for clients, but you teach them how to advocate for themselves.
When asked to share one of her most memorable clients, Jennifer said it was a teenager, placed in foster care, with disabilities. She had been working with the client for years and at first, he had a difficult time with expressing himself and trusting people. However, the client’s difficulties made sense, as by the age of 14, he had been in 26 different foster care placements. Eventually, after consistently checking on him, advocating for him and attempting to convince him to participate in an Individual Education Program (“IEP”) meeting, he decided, as a junior in high school, it was time he did not sit quietly through another meeting. Thus, he wrote a few sentences about the goals he wanted to accomplish. Then, Jennifer practiced with him, until he felt comfortable stating his goals aloud. During the IEP meeting, the client was able to advocate for himself and state all of his goals. After the IEP meeting, the client was so proud of himself. He was shocked a room full of authority figures listened to him and incorporated his goals into his IEP.
Jennifer’s selfless work, compassion, desire and dedication to assist the most vulnerable client’s in our system make her our volunteer of the month.