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NON-PROFIT REPORT: Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County

Rochester Business Journal
June 20, 2014

Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County Inc. provides free legal help in civil matters for low-income county residents using approximately 1,600 volunteer attorneys. It was created in 1981 as a project of the Monroe County Bar Association and became a stand-alone non-profit in 1982.

VLSP’s mission is to improve the quality of life for low-income people by maintaining a readily available panel of skilled volunteer lawyers to resolve serious civil legal problems. The organization recruits, trains and mentors volunteer attorneys from law firms, corporations and government to serve clients who have no other means of legal representation. The estimated value of services donated in its 2012-13 fiscal year was $1,086,134.

VLSP serves people whose income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Pro bono attorneys represent and advise clients in matters of divorce, custody, visitation, child support, unemployment insurance, consumer credit, bankruptcy, collections, tort defense, taxes, real estate, immigration, pensions, wills, guardianships and many other areas of civil law.

People are referred to VLSP by sources that include other legal services, the courts and social service agencies. VLSP screens potential clients for income and asset eligibility and the merit of their cases. After a case is accepted, it is matched with a lawyer who has the interest and skills to handle it. VLSP uses pro bono attorneys who have experience in the subject matter through their law practices, as well as attorneys it has recruited and trained for specific work.

The volunteer lawyers can receive support from VLSP staff attorneys, paralegals or legal assistants or from pro bono mentors with the requisite expertise. VLSP also provides malpractice insurance for its volunteers and is a state-accredited provider of mandatory continuing legal education.

Each year on Law Day, May 1, Volunteer Legal Services Project presents its William E. McKnight Award to people who have made extraordinary contributions through their pro bono service.

VLSP also operates clinics on pro se divorce, child support, wills for people with life-threatening illnesses and debt collection advice. The VLSP Court Help Center provides information about the courts and their procedures at the Hall of Justice.

Volunteer Legal Services Project has the equivalent of 11.45 full-time employees, and Sheila Gaddis is executive director. Its office is in the Telesca Center for Justice at 1 W. Main St., 5th floor, and its website is

Financial Record    Year ended March 31, 2013   
Revenue    %
Government grants    $420,377    51
Contributions    256,872    31
Support from related organizations    72,185    9
Federated fundraising campaigns    51,100    6
Fees    15,665    2
Other    8,683    1
Total revenue    $824,882    100

Expenses    %
Payroll, benefits, taxes     $604,638    78
Professional services    58,419    7
Occupancy    45,534    6
Office expenses    38,557    5
Insurance    7,975    1
Travel    7,604    1
Conferences and meetings    7,082    1
Other    10,294    1
Total expenses    $780,103    100
Excess (deficiency) of revenue over expenses    $44,779

Board of Directors

Frank Novak, president
Karen Ellmore,
vice president
Steven Schwartz, treasurer
Aileen Shinaman, secretary
James McElheny,
past president
Margaret Clemens
Gary Cohen
Flor Colon
Craig Doran
Alan Harris
Edward Hourihan Jr.
Harold Kurland
Bruce Lawrence
Mary Loewenguth
Raul Martinez
Elizabeth McDonald
Michael Messina
Steven Modica
Mark Moretti
Beth Moscarelli
Edward Nowak
Kenneth Perri
Anthony Piazza
Thomas Richards
Paul Richardson
Margaret Sanchez
Fernando Santiago
Laura Smalley
David Tennant
Sharon Underberg
Thomas Van Strydonck

—Researched by James Leunk

If you are interested in having your group featured in the Non-Profit Report, please contact Rochester Business Journal at (585) 546-8303, ext. 116, or email

6/20/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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