Brian Kelly: Pro Bono Work Helps Troubled Families Succeed

Brian Kelly’s job is to bring families together. His firm, Shorstein & Kelly, specializes in adoption law. And while there are many non-monetary rewards in what he does, he wasn’t quite prepared for the explosion of gratitude he received last summer when, through a JALA pro bono case, he helped a “really, really nice older couple in their 60s adopt their own 6 year-old granddaughter.”

“It really didn’t seem like that much, but they were just gushing over being able to adopt that child,” said Kelly. “It meant so very much to them.”

The couple had already been caring for their daughter’s child since her birth, but the grandfather had since become disabled and their income had plummeted. All three were forced to survive on his disability payments. And they likely would have continued to struggle on that shoestring if not for Kelly’s efforts. By adopting the girl, the grandfather could qualify for slightly larger disability payments to help offset the cost of caring for the child.

“It was not a lot of money, but his payment increased by about 25 percent,” said Kelly, “Which meant a lot to them, and to the child.” While the grandparents technically could have accomplished the adoption on their own, without a lawyer few people are able to navigate the maze of adoption laws by themselves.

“They were so appreciative and just went on and on and on about how they couldn’t have done it without help from legal aid,” said Kelly, who, along with his partner, Michael Shorstein, handles about 10 to 12 such cases a year. “That was a rewarding day in court. The judge made a big deal out of it and the little girl just felt real special.”

ONE: One Client. One Attorney. One Promise.

Requests for civil legal assistance from the Fourth Circuit’s low-income families have never been greater. Attorneys are needed in all areas of civil law for pro bono representation. Contact Kathy Para, kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org or 356-8371, ext. 363., Chairperson, JBA Pro Bono Committee, for information on areas of greatest need, volunteer opportunities in Fourth Circuit legal services organizations, and support for pro bono attorneys.

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