In honor of The Door’s 50th anniversary this year, each month we are profiling the various programs and services The Door has provided to New York City youth since 1972. We recently wrapped up our annual legal event, Joining in Justice, which highlights the tremendous work of our Legal Services Center and pro-bono partners.
Established in 1992 to address the lack of free legal assistance for New York City youth, the Center provides a broad range of counsel and advocacy services to all Door members ages 12 to 24, especially civil legal services that include immigration, family court, foster care, housing, and public benefits. The Center’s dedicated team of nearly 40 attorneys, social workers, paralegals, and administrative assistants are particularly well known for their work defending the rights of undocumented immigrant youth.David Werber, a volunteer attorney at the Legal Services Center, is a shining example of the partnerships and community engagement that make The Door’s crucial services possible. For the past 8 years, David has collaborated with The Door staff to run a weekly law clinic for Door members navigating the criminal justice system. David describes the clinic as an enriching experience that enabled him to continue the legal work he loved most after retiring:
After retiring from the Legal Aid Society in 2013, having been a public defender for 40 years, I found that I missed being a lawyer. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and remembered The Door from working with younger clients and taking a tour some years prior. At the time, I reached out to Eve Stotland who was the Director of the Legal Services Center. We worked on setting up a weekly law clinic to meet with young people face to face to discuss their criminal law issues. I worked closely with Michael Williams, a Senior Staff Attorney. We met with young people once a week in SoHo, Broome Street Academy, and the Bronx Youth Center to discuss their on-going cases. We gave “Know Your Rights” trainings and often consulted with other volunteer lawyers at the Center.
What I enjoy most about being a volunteer attorney is working with the young people at The Door. When I worked at Legal Aid Society and the Red Hook Community Justice Center, there were many services to offer defendants who were evaluated by a social worker. Seeing a similar model at The Door and working with young people was perfect and something I was familiar with.
The staff at The Door are there for one purpose—to provide support for the young people of New York City. Being in that environment is a huge energy burst for me and it is contagious. Lots of positive energy and expertise. The Door is a full-service operation for youth where they can get everything they need. They can come in and get a shower and have a meal, which are things that I can point out, particularly to new members. Often, I would realize during interviews that clients may need other services, and I would walk them next door to help them set up an appointment in counseling or at the Health Center.
One thing that I admire are the immigration lawyers in the Legal Services Center, particularly in the last several years with an administration in Washington that was hostile to legal immigration. What the immigration lawyers have done and are doing is very challenging and they have been on the front lines of this fight. For many clients, it can be a matter of life and death. Working with the staff attorneys and being able to support them on some of the issues that might come up in their cases gives me the opportunity to interact with them. I enjoy conferencing cases with our amazing lawyers.
The potential I see in all the young people I work with inspires me. Every one of them has the potential to do great things in their lives, and sometimes they need encouragement and support as well as legal advice. Learning about young people and talking to them about their dreams, their plans, what they want to do just shows the goodness in the youth that we work with.
Thank you for your ongoing support of The Door’s community. We are grateful to have you in our corner, and we hope you continue to celebrate our 50th anniversary with us by sharing your story here.