Spotlight on pro bono contributions
Bankruptcy attorney David Wm. Engelman has
represented businesses and lenders for decades, but
he might be better known for his free financial clinics
for the needy. “The knowledge of the law is essen-
tially the same, but it’s very different folks that you’re
working with as clients,” he says.
A practicing attorney for 40 years, Engelman has
been serving the less fortunate for longer still. “My
family was always involved in charitable activities—
providing assistance in elderly care homes, working
with multiple sclerosis groups,” he says. “All my life,
I’ve done things to try to make situations better for
people less privileged than me.”
Now a shareholder at Engelman Berger in Phoe-
nix, Engelman puts on clinics with the Maricopa
County Volunteer Lawyers Program in connection
with the county bar association. In addition to offer-
ing free financial advice to indigent pro bono clients,
Engelman uses the program to advise young lawyers
on the best ways to provide free legal services.
Listening skills are paramount. Clients often don’t
$25,000. Her wages were being garnished to satisfy
have crucial financial documents and paperwork. “In
these clinics,” Engelman says, “it’s very important to
go in, listen and be able to extract the information
necessary in order to formulate the advice that the
client needs. It’s an art.”
Years ago, a mother and her five children came
into a clinic for help. They were on the verge of evic-
tion. “Her sole source of income was through her
employment with a hotel as a laundry assistant,”
says Engelman. “She had an annual salary of maybe
a large debt to a payday loan company. Because of
the garnishment, she was not able to pay her rent.
Our team of volunteers reached out to the garnish-
ing creditor to stop the garnishment, but to no avail.
We then quickly filed a bankruptcy for her, which
stopped the garnishment. While doing that, we ne-
gotiated a payment arrangement with her landlord
that involved a reduction of rent.
The Art of Advice
David Wm. Engelman on what he’s learned after 40 years of law
and a lifetime of helping the less fortunate BY ANDREW BRANDT
David Wm. Engelman
“I remember that because six months later, [she]
came back to the clinic with a few of her children to
thank us for our work and to show us how she was
getting along,” Engelman adds.
The Volunteer Lawyers Program clinics are
currently held once or twice monthly in Phoenix.
Clients begin the process with a financial interview
over the phone, to see if they qualify; from there,
they go through a short screening to determine
their specific financial issue; then they schedule an
appointment to meet with one of the roughly 30
volunteer attorneys who participate in the program.
Engelman is always looking to expand the group of
attorneys he can count on for volunteer assistance,
and he hopes to extend the program’s coverage
throughout Maricopa County.
Engelman is happy that the clinics are just one
of a number of similar-minded programs in the
area: “We’re not alone. Fortunately, there are a
lot of good folks doing some good pro bono work
for Getting Involved
“First of all, find a mentor,” Engelman says.
“Second, find the type of pro bono work that you enjoy.
If somebody does some pro bono work that they’re not
familiar with—[or] not comfortable doing—they won’t enjoy
it, and they won’t stay with it. So find something that you’re
competent in and enjoy.
“Three: Let the experience of getting the satisfaction of helping
somebody kind of sift into you. You will be, I think, hooked.”
Furthermore: “Try to develop a sense of empathy. And, at
the same time, create a sense of personal responsibility in