The Legal Services of Greater Miami (LSG) is recognizing Shook Associate Vanessa Offutt as its Equal Justice Pro Bono Clinic Volunteer Award recipient. This award is based on “extraordinary” commitment to the community through pro bono service volunteerism in the pursuit of furthering equal justice. Offutt will receive the award from LSG during a virtual ceremony on Thursday, October 29th.
Offutt works with clients in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry practicing product liability. For the past two years, Offutt has provided legal services as a pro bono volunteer for the Tenants’ Equal Justice Clinic-Miami. Offutt advises clients who are facing eviction, payment disputes and other issues as to why rent may not be getting paid.
“The ultimate goal is to avoid eviction. Evictions makes it practically impossible to gain housing,” said Offutt. “Evictions have the potential to increase homelessness due to it showing up as a red flag on housing applications.”
Representing clients during COVID-19 has been an added challenge and reaffirming the need for proper housing. According to Offutt, these cases were brought more to the forefront due to city ordinances requiring people to quarantine. In Miami, there is currently no local coalition to assist the community in fighting evictions due to unforeseen challenges like loss of wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens are relying on government ordinances to add law and order to these processes and that’s where Offutt has dedicated her time outside of assisting her regular clients.
“Evictions move quickly, the motions can be approved in the blink of an eye,” said Offutt. “If these tenants don’t have legal know-how, the evictions will be followed through if there is no fight.”
Working as a pro bono volunteer for the Tenants’ Equal Justice Clinic in Miami is important to Offutt as a working professional looking to support her local community.
“As I get older, I understand the idea of the pipeline. If you work backward, you’ll see that many of societal issues stem from people’s early years if they don’t have adults in their life helping. [In this way] I saw how the pipeline relates to the legal industry.”
The Legal Services of Greater Miami is a nonprofit providing home ownership, health care, educational aid and caregiver support through free legal services. Learn more about Shook’s commitment to pro bono legal work.