New York, February 4, 2004 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – MFY Legal Services. Inc. announced today the establishment of the “Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler Fellowship” at MFY in honor of Manhattan law firm, Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP, long recognized for its substantial pro bono contributions in New York City.
MFY and Patterson Belknap will jointly select the Fellow, who will serve for a two-year period commencing in the Fall of 2005. The Patterson Belknap Fellow will provide free civil legal assistance to disadvantaged clients and address areas of emerging legal need for underserved New Yorkers. It is anticipated that the Fellow will bring targeted litigation in support of adult home and nursing home reform, as well as broader disability and equality issues.
Lynn M. Kelly, the Executive Director of MFY said, “We are very excited about this opportunity when legal resources for the poor are so scarce. Patterson Belknap has long been a pro bono leader. Our work with Patterson Belknap for these many years serves as a model of a public legal services-private law firm partnership.”
According to Lisa E. Cleary, the partner at Patterson Belknap who leads the firm’s pro bono efforts, “In addition to providing direct legal services to individual clients, the Patterson Belknap Fellow will work closely with community-based organizations that partner with MFY, to address broader issues affecting large numbers of low-income New Yorkers.”
Patterson Belknap has contributed pro bono resources to MFY for more than a decade. In 1992, working with MFY’s Managing Attorney Jeanette Zelhof, the first lawsuit challenging conditions in adult homes in New York State was brought. In subsequent adult home litigation brought by MFY, Patterson Belknap attorneys defended an MFY organizer sued in a SLAPP suit. Patterson Belknap attorneys have, for years, volunteered to serve as guardians ad litem for countless mentally disabled clients of MFY who faced evictions from their homes and the loss of important government benefits. MFY and Patterson Belknap attorneys also brought an impact litigation challenging Metropolitan Transit Authority procedures that discriminated against the psychiatrically disabled benefiting thousands of disabled New Yorkers. Two Patterson Belknap partners were at the forefront of a challenge to Legal Services Corporation restrictions at a time when MFY received funding from the federal government.
Ms. Kelly also noted Ms. Cleary’s contributions to MFY, including her service as Board Chair of MFY for five years. Ms. Cleary and other lawyers from Patterson Belknap will continue to work with MFY on important adult home reform litigation.
MFY Legal Services, Inc. (MFY), one of the first nonprofit legal agencies in the country, has been representing poor and disabled New Yorkers since 1963. MFY litigates both affirmatively and defensively to ensure equal access to the legal system for those unable to afford representation. MFY’s Mental Health Law Project and Adult Home Advocacy Project focus on the rights of the mentally disabled who live in a variety of community-based settings and adult homes.
Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP is a full-service New York City-based law firm with a national and international client base. The 190-lawyer firm regularly ranks in the top ten nationally in pro bono service in The American Lawyer magazine’s annual survey of America’s 200 largest law firms. For 2003, the firm ranked sixth and for 2002 it ranked first. Among New York-based firms, Patterson Belknap ranked first in 2002 and second in 2003.