Pro bono work offers attorneys an opportunity to not promote access to justice and help those in need, but also expand their legal knowledge and skills. Racquel Muindi, an associate with Ballard Spahr LLP, has volunteered regularly with LAFLA’s expungement clinics since last year, and we are incredibly thankful for the impact she has had on clients. She shared with us what motivates her to volunteer.
What drew you to our expungement clinics?
LAFLA clinics generally are a great way for attorneys to offer pro bono services in substantive areas they may not otherwise confront in their day-to-day practice. Given that I have a transactional practice, I try to focus my pro bono efforts on other areas of the law that I am passionate about.
Through my prior judicial clerkship, I had experience reviewing expungement petitions from the court’s perspective but when I saw LAFLA needed volunteers to assist clients with preparing their petitions, I was excited about the opportunity to engage with clients on a more personal level.
A large part of the work I do assisting clinic clients is helping them tell their story – what was going on in your life at the time of your conviction? Was there a turning point for you? Finding employment or housing is already difficult and having a criminal conviction makes it that much harder for some of the clients to move past their conviction and make a better life for themselves and their families. The expungement clinic is more than helping clients file their expungement petitions and supporting documents. I truly believe in many cases it really functions as a launching pad for clients to get the second chance they’re all hoping for.
Can you please describe your recent successes on behalf of LAFLA’s clients?
I was recently advised of two client successes where the Court granted the individual petitions, and I was ecstatic to hear that both clients received a favorable result!
One of the successes was a client I had assisted last year whose case I remember because we had some similarities in our background. They were a veteran and had spent time stationed in Germany. I had interned with the Army JAG Corps in Germany during law school, and my grandfather had also served in the military in the 70s. I remember during our meeting, the client described the kind of career they had hoped to have as a civilian in their post-military life, and then explained that due to their conviction they were unable to continue on the identified career path. Since their conviction they were active in volunteering with other veterans, had grandkids, and yet in their voice it really seemed like the conviction was holding them back from moving forward. When I found out that the Court had granted the petition, I remember thinking this is the weight finally being lifted.
Why do you think others should pursue pro bono service with LAFLA?
LAFLA’s staff really make participating in pro bono work less daunting than it would be going at it alone. The staff are dedicated and friendly and go above and beyond to ensure that LAFLA is maximizing its resources to benefit the pro bono clients.
If you are interested in donating your time, please visit our volunteer page for information about our volunteer programs, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a specific pro bono opportunity. If you are interested in gaining more substantive knowledge to take on a pro bono case, visit the Pro Bono Training Institute’s online library of on-demand, CLE trainings.