Alex Paterra isn’t a native South Carolinian, but that hasn’t stopped him from jumping right in to assist South Carolinians in need.
Alex graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law and started practicing law in 2005. He is a solo practitioner and recently grabbed an opportunity to help people in need while keeping his lights on via the Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) program with SCLS.
Originally Alex envisioned his legal career beginning at the public defender’s office, however, his path led him into private practice with two law firms, but with the downturn in the economy, he chose to start his own firm. His work at SCLS began by volunteering to take their employment cases. He had 5 years of Labor and Employment experience and knew he could help out. Once he had started volunteering, he noted that there was an opportunity for him to assist even more people working as a PAI attorney.
Since November 2009, he has taken on roughly 7 employment cases.
Has this work changed his vision of legal services?
Not really. I had previously volunteered at other legal service entities and consider pro bono a necessity for so many people who can’t even make ends meet.
What should practitioners know about your experience?
Major law firms should donate first year associates to their local legal services’ entity. It is of GREAT benefit to the firm. The associate gets a MUCH quicker immersion into law and learns some great basic skills such as:
- Quick decision-making;
- Learning how to distinguish successful cases via a smell-test;
- Team-building and learning to bounce ideas off each other;
The associates would gain practical, courtroom experience in a more relaxed environment. The associates should be volunteers for a minimum of 6 months to 1 year. Any help is good, but one year of service translates into a great volunteer – for life.