Finding a way for lawyers to do more with less -- or even just keep up -- in a struggling economy will top the agenda for attorney Robert Mulhall when he takes over as president of The Richmond County Bar Association this week.
Mulhall, 66, of Castleton Corners, whose practice focuses on personal injury law, will be installed as the association's next president Thursday at Richmond County Supreme Court.
The association plays a role in selecting judges, handles grievances filed against attorneys, and sponsors educational, civic and social functions.
They also work to assist those who cannot afford legal representation on Staten Island -- but time to spare and money to run the programs are harder to come by lately, Mulhall said.
In response to the foreclosure crisis, the association launched the Volunteer Lawyers Project, which provides pro bono legal work to families facing foreclosure.
Many of the people they help have lost a job and their health insurance, and racked up debt due to a sudden illness.
'POOF! IT'S ALL GONE'
"It adds up very quickly," said Mulhall, who is chairman of the project. "These are middle-class people that never had a financial problem, and all of a sudden -- poof -- it's all gone."
The program formerly received some state funding, from the interest on certain real estate transactions that are held by the state and parceled out to legal groups. This year, the association didn't get any help.
"Richmond County got nothing," Mulhall said.
While the lawyers donate their time, the funding covers the overhead of the project, Mulhall said. So he and newly elected treasurer Daniel Marotta have been searching for ways to make up for the money.
"We're already working on it,' he said.
Lawyers face many new challenges dealing with recently announced budget cuts and layoffs in the New York state court system, Mulhall said.
Most courts will now close at 4:30 p.m., which could draw out trials, and night small claims court will meet just once a month on Staten Island. "It's all the result of the economy," he said.
One way he hopes to help lawyers on the Island is through education about new technology, which can make legal processes more efficient. They have a technology committee to help keep up, he said, and a Website full of resources for lawyers.
"I think all of these things will assist attorneys in serving the clients, the people of Staten Island, more professionally and to the fullest extent," he said.
LAW DAY SPONSOR
The association is also known for the annual Law Day events they put on each year, and its internship program, run with the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association.
Mulhall is a former Chief Court Attorney of the Supreme Court, Richmond County, and past-president of the Court Attorneys Association of the City of New York. He is also a director with the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association; is a life member of the Staten Island Council of the Knights of Columbus, is a member of the Capital Campaign Finance Committee of St. Teresa's Church and the County Committee of the Democratic Party of Staten Island.
He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Manhattan College and a law degree from Fordham University Law. He and his wife, Lorraine Mulhall, have two sons, Robert and Daniel.
By Jillian Jorgensen