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Law School Launches Access to Justice Incubator

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The Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University is launching a postgraduate fellowship program, the Access to Justice Incubator,  that will put recent law graduates to work in the surrounding community, giving them the opportunity to gain valuable experience as new lawyers while also providing much-needed legal services for indigent individuals in Nassau County.

“I am delighted to help inaugurate this wonderful program,” said Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman at an event earlier this month to announce the program. “The Access to Justice Incubator, developed in partnership with the Nassau County bench and bar, will cultivate a culture of service among the next generation of the legal profession and make a significant contribution towards bridging the access to justice gap for the poor.”

According to the New York State Community Action Association Poverty Report for 2012, there were over 45,000 adults living in poverty in Nassau County. Hofstra Law fellows will provide representation for low- and moderate-income individuals facing certain civil legal issues. Initially, the focus will be on guardianship proceedings, housing and home ownership, and benefit entitlements, as well as access to appropriate health care and health care decision-making.

The Incubator is a nonprofit entity formed with the assistance of the New York State Unified Court System and the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services established by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in 2010. Similar to the Task Force, the Incubator’s dual mission is to fill a critical gap in access to civil legal services for low- and moderate-income individuals, and to promote a culture of service in the legal profession. The Incubator will work in consultation with the local bench and bar to identify critical areas of need for civil legal services in Nassau County.

Recent Hofstra Law graduates will be hired to work for the Incubator for one-year fellowships. According to Dean Eric Lane, “our hope is that the Incubator will be a bridge from the classroom to full-time legal practice, offering Hofstra Law graduates a growth opportunity to prepare for practice while serving the public interest.”

Fellows will be closely supervised while they are trained to provide the full spectrum of representation for clients and will hone the skills of reflective practice under the guidance of executive director/managing attorney Lisa M. Petrocelli, Esq. ’94. Before joining the Incubator, Petrocelli served as a principal law clerk in the Nassau County Supreme Court for nine years, and previously handled guardianship matters, real estate transactions and trusts and estates as a private practitioner. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Nassau County Bar Association, is a past president of the Great Neck Lawyers Association and is an active member in several other professional organizations.

“I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to participate in this unique and significant program at my law school alma mater,” said Petrocelli. “I look forward to building a successful incubator model which benefits our graduates while greatly impacting those members of the community that require our assistance.”

The Incubator has received generous support from alumni Elissa Epstein ’78, Lorna Goodman ’75, Judith Livingston ’79 and Judith Raskin ’86 and law firms Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf, LLP, Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP, Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana LLP, Moritt Hock & Hamroff LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Murphy, Bartol & O’Brien, LLP and Nancy Burner & Associates, P.C., as well as a grant from the New York State Unified Court System.

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