Providing Free Legal Services
By Holly Reich
When he’s not logging in hours as a lawyer at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, Juan Arteaga spends a good portion of his free time handling pro bono cases for inMotion, Inc., a non-profit that provides free legal services in the areas of matrimonial, family and immigration law to low-income women in New York City.
Arteaga, an eighth year senior litigation associate, chose to volunteer his time to inMotion because they had a track record for exceptional pro bono work.
“I grew up in a public housing project raised by a single mother,” he explains. “I quickly realized the importance of having an advocate for you—whether it is in the judicial system or dealing with government employees. This is one of the ways I try to give back to the community.”
“All of our clients live in poverty and most face violence at home and threats to their children’s wellbeing. Their legal needs are immediate and urgent, and they deserve competent legal representation regardless of their ability to pay. With barely enough money for life’s basic necessities, hiring an attorney is not an option,” explains Catherine J. Douglass, founder and executive director of inMotion.
Founded in 1993, the organization offers services that address the legal needs of women who suffer from abuse. Over 80 percent of inMotion’s clients are victims of domestic violence and 72 percent are mothers. The non-profit also targets under-served, immigrant communities to reach women who are isolated by language or cultural barriers.
“Our objective is to ensure that all women who contact inMotion obtain essential protection for themselves and their children,” adds Douglass.
Danielle, one of Arteaga’s long-term pro bono clients, is a prime example of the under-served women inMotion seeks to help. “Danielle was basically looking at the potential of being deported and losing her son to an abusive husband,” explains Arteaga.
Together with help from associates at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, Arteaga helped Danielle obtain an order of protection from her abusive husband, a divorce, custody of her son and child support.
”It was a true growing experience,” Arteaga recalls, “Danielle was down and discouraged when we were first introduced, but when the process was completed, she smiled from ear to ear. We gave her and her son a second lease on life,” he says.
Danielle was equally moved. “I can laugh out loud and not be scared that someone is going to tell me to shut up. It means a lot, and inMotion played a major role in helping me believe in myself again.”
Arteaga says he’s spent over 600 hours on inMotion cases since 2001. “It’s given me a sense of purpose as an attorney. Working at a big organization you don’t always get to see the impact,” he says. “A lot of the time, inMotion is the reason a mother is able to keep the most precious thing in her life, her child.”
Arteaga acknowledges that his mother is, in part, why he offers his services through inMotion. He says, “She made a world of difference. When people ask how I have accomplished what I have, I say ‘I owe it to my mother.’” Like his mother, Arteaga is not looking for anything in return. He simply hopes to make a meaningful difference.
Arteaga concludes, “I‘d encourage everyone to donate or volunteer to a non-profit such as inMotion. They truly make a difference in what seem like impossible situations.”
If you want to get involved, inMotion’s Stair Climb Event will take place on Thursday evening, November 18, 2010 at 1411 Broadway at 39th Street.
For more information about inMotion and the Stair Climb Event, call (646) 442-1186 or visit www.inmotiononline.org.