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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

VLSP Volunteer Secures Stable Guardianship for Child in Need


By Vincent Townsend, VLSP Intern


Dee,* a grandmother in her fifties, desired to serve as guardian for her four year old granddaughter, Hy.* She contacted VLSP in dire need of legal assistance. The case was accepted by Robert Rathmell, a family law attorney with a solo practice. Having recently completed his guardianship training with VLSP, Rathmell was eager to put his new skills to practice.

Hy’s parents cared very much for their daughter, but their struggles with poverty, unemployment, and the law prevented them from providing Hy with the care they knew she deserved. Hy’s father faced the difficulties that accompany imprisonment, parole, and homelessness and was not in a position to care for his daughter. Additionally, Hy’s mother relied on friends and family for housing and support. Until Hy’s parents were able to resolve a number of these major issues in their life, Dee wanted to step in as Hy’s guardian in order to ensure she was taken care of and remained connected with her family.

As a result of some negative experiences with the law when she was younger, Dee was hesitant to trust Rathmell as her attorney. However, as Rathmell demonstrated a sincere interest in Dee’s case, she began to open up. With honesty and clear communication they made great progress.

The case was a great success! Rathmell obtained guardianship rights for his client. Thanks to the legal services provided by Rathmell through the Volunteer Legal Services Program, Dee was empowered to care for her granddaughter with the full support of the law.

With a sincere interest in assisting the community, Rathmell started his solo practice “to bring affordable legal services to California working families.” As an attorney who is concerned with the legal issues faced by low income clients, it was only natural for him to become involved with an organization like VLSP. According to Rathmell, “the program changed the course of my career.” In addition, Rathmell expressed the invaluable networking of colleagues and experiences he gained through working with The Bar Association of San Francisco. He recommends that any attorney seeking employment should join BASF and volunteer with one of VLSP’s many pro bono projects. Rathmell expressed how much of an impact VLSP can have when he remarked, “both the attorney’s and the client’s lives can be made better through volunteer advocacy.” With motivated attorneys like Rathmell, VLSP will be able to continue serving the most vulnerable members of our community.

To find out more about VLSP’s guardianship project, visit For more information, email

*Names have been changed.

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