On-the-Ground Perspective


Mary Herms has volunteered at Manhattan CLARO for the past two years. Her fellow volunteers view her as a very dedicated volunteer who connects directly with each individual CLARO visitor. While Mary has always had a desire to help others, she mentions a particularly memorable high school class in which she learned sign language as an inspiration for service. What started then as an opportunity to help individuals with hearing impairments (following a suggestion by her mother) became an invaluable experience that helped Mary further discover her passion for providing empowerment to those in need.

Reflecting on her experience as a volunteer, Mary says that she is “deeply saddened by the stories clients share” and feels that “CLARO is a great place to help provide relief to those who have been taken advantage of.”

“The time spent volunteering really just flies by,” Mary says. As a frequent volunteer with the Manhattan CLARO program, Mary believes one of the most important things to remember when providing limited-scope legal advice is to take the time to truly listen to each client as they tell their story.

“It’s extremely important to have empathy for each client,” she says. “Listening helps the client feel as if their voice can be heard. By understanding each client’s circumstance, we are able to assist them in the most effective way possible.”

Mary emphasizes that those attorneys interested in volunteering with CLARO should not let lack of experience in civil litigation dissuade them from their decision to volunteer.

“Everyone is there to teach you and help you learn,” she says. “I highly recommend CLARO to all attorneys. It is a rewarding experience that allows attorneys to help people.”

Mary reflects on a past client that returned to the clinic after receiving notice that his judgment was vacated.

“The client returned to CLARO and I was so happy to see him,” she says. “He was placed in such an awful situation and this news was the first step toward providing the client with the justice he deserved. He came back and told me that he was so grateful for our help that he wanted to start volunteering himself! It is cases like this that make volunteering at CLARO so rewarding. Everyone should volunteer for CLARO—and bring their friends!”


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