New attorney Erick Vargas joined our Gwinnett office on one of the most difficult years on record — and we’re so glad that he did. Erick passed the bar last February, and he almost immediately reached out to Legal Aid to get involved pro bono. Erick was already familiar with Legal Aid. As he describes it, the story is a bit of a circle.
Back in 2010, amidst the backdrop of the Great Recession, Erick’s family — like 3 million others — was facing the loss of their home. They had applied for a refinancing program and were told by their bank that they were approved. But soon, a letter arrived from a lawyer: their house was going into foreclosure, and the house would be sold in a week.
Erick’s dad reached out to Legal Aid and was assigned to our Home Defense Project. Erick says, “I was just amazed at seeing the amount of hard work that the Home Defense Project was doing for us, in order for us to keep our house. And ultimately we did get to keep it. And because we got to keep it, I was able to graduate from the high school I was going to, and I managed to go to college. And ever since that moment, I’ve felt like not only do I want to be a lawyer, but I want to be a lawyer who helps people.”
Erick thought that he would just volunteer for awhile with Legal Aid to learn the ropes, but he says he quickly fell in love with public service law, and “being able to help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get any legal help — to be the person that they can turn to when they feel that no one else is around.”
Erick asked for more volunteer work. He asked “Can I do more than what I’m doing now?” After 6 months of volunteering, Erick landed the job at Legal Aid, where he is doing the important work of staffing our Spanish intake line. Originally from Costa Rica, Erick is a native Spanish speaker. He explains, “Spanish-speaking clients have the same sort of problems that we see with our English intakes. But there’s also that extra caveat of the cultural impact. Some people don’t know that they’re entitled to use the legal system to help them. So a lot of my responsibility is not only to advise them on the issue that they call us for, but also to let them know that they are also part of this country, and that they’re entitled to the same protections that everyone else enjoys. So a lot of my job is being that orienter for people”.
[Erick’s photo has the Protector of Justice logo on his photo because that’s just what he does: protects justice for the most vulnerable people in our community. You can also help protect justice by setting up a monthly gift to Legal Aid: give.atlantalegalaid.org/monthly . For just a few dollars a month, you can make a big impact.]