Media Release: Responding to Growing Community Needs ...

The Pro Bono Project Reorganizes in Response to Growing Community Needs for Civil Legal Services
New Senior Positions Will Enable Organization to
Handle Growing Caseload and New Civil Legal Needs

        (New Orleans, LA) – In 2015 The Pro Bono Project (The Project) handled 1,400 cases, serving almost 3,000 people. As the need for pro bono civil legal services in the six parishes that the organization serves continues to grow by an average of 10-15% annually, The Project’s Executive Director Jennifer Rizzo-Choi and its Executive Committee have divided the tasks once overseen by a “chief legal officer” into two separate management positions:  a Managing Attorney for Direct Client Services and a Managing Attorney for Volunteer Engagement. After an extensive interview process, the two positions have been filled, respectively, by current Project Staff Attorney Jesse George, Esq., and by Louisiana Bar Foundation Outreach Coordinator Kathleen McNelis Legendre, Esq.

        “We were fortunate to have Linton Carney as our Chief Legal Officer for seven years. During his tenure Linton assumed so many responsibilities at The Project that we found him impossible to replace with just one person. Our strategic planning process provided us with a timely opportunity to review our needs and how we provide support to the community, and in doing so, we recognized the unique opportunity to add substantive and management expertise in the form of the roles that Jesse and Kathleen will play going forward,” said Ms. Rizzo-Choi.

        Not surprisingly, The Project’s caseload has been growing since Hurricane Katrina and the 2008/09 economic downturn. New civil legal issues continue to emerge with few organizations available to provide the services needed. As The Project continues to look at changes within its service area, its ability to be flexible enables it to play a role in helping to address these new civil legal areas, as well as others that may develop in the future.

        “This is a year of transition for The Project and its Board and staff.  We are taking the time to evaluate where we’ve come from and where we need to go as an organization. With a successful 30-year track record and a new executive director on board, this seemed to be the right time to identify emerging needs within the community and adapt accordingly. Our annual fundraiser, the Justice For All Ball, is just a week away on September 16, and we are thrilled to be able to introduce our new Managing Attorneys to our many supporters at that event,” said Board Chair Norm Rubenstein.

About Jesse George, Esq.

Jesse George, Esq.

Jesse George, Esq.

        As part of this structural change, The Project promoted Staff Attorney Jesse George (r) from his oversight of consumer and Child In Need of Care (CINC) cases to the position of Managing Attorney of Direct Client Services, where he will continue to oversee and expand the CINC program. In addition to this, Mr. George will provide subject matter expertise as well as mentor volunteer attorneys, oversee clinics and CLEs in specific areas of civil law; and manage grant reporting to funders.

        Mr. George received his Juris Doctorate in 2008 from Tulane University Law School; he is a 2005 graduate of Louisiana State University, having earned a concurrent Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religious Studies. Prior to joining The Project in 2011, Mr. George worked at The Murray Law Firm on the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill litigation, and the Alliance For Affordable Energy, where he served as the Director of Regulatory and Legal Affairs.

About Kathleen McNelis Legendre

Kathleen McNelis Legendre, Esq,

Kathleen McNelis Legendre, Esq,

        Coming from the non-profit legal community, Kathleen McNelis Legendre emerged as The Project’s choice for the new Managing Attorney for Volunteer Engagement role. For the past eight years, as Outreach Coordinator, Ms. Legendre has performed outreach and engagement work for the Louisiana Bar Foundation (LBF), one of the Project’s main funders.  In her new position, she will supervise staff members; recruit, train, and support pro bono volunteers; cultivate and maintain relationships within the legal community; manage and oversee a range of intake points (clinics, courthouse self-help desks, small business clinics, etc.); and develop and conduct CLE training on legal subject matter in which The Project currently works.

        Ms. Legendre received her Juris Doctorate and Graduate Diploma in Comparative Law from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University, in 2006; she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Mt. Holyoke College in 1997. She served as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow from 2006-2008.

        Both Mr. George and Ms. Legendre will share management and scheduling responsibilities, prepare case materials for volunteers, represent the organization at external functions, and work closely with the Executive Director to achieve the goals of the organization. They assume their new roles on September 7, 2016.

        For more information about The Pro Bono Project or these new positions, please contact Executive Director Jennifer Rizzo-Choi at jrizzo@probono-no.org or 504.581.4043.

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The Pro Bono Project's continuing mission to provide free quality civil legal services to the underserved is more important than ever. By engaging volunteer lawyers and other professionals to render pro bono services, The Pro Bono Project serves clients in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Plaquemines and Washington parishes. The Pro Bono Project works in collaboration with other social service providers to improve quality of life for our clients and our community.

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