The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) and the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC), leading a group of Bay Area lawyers and organizations that provide free life planning assistance to qualified individuals, are excited to announce the expansion of the program to help more groups of essential workers.
“We are pleased to be able to offer essential life planning services to essential workers who risk their lives so others can safely shelter-in-place and do their part to protect public health. With the expansion of outreach, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, public transit workers, teachers, and others performing essential work are eligible to receive services from us,” says Jay Hoon Lee, JDC’s Pro Bono Manager.
The program, originally known as Life Planning for Life Savers, was developed in April, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic forced San Francisco to shelter-in-place. The pilot program focused on helping medical frontline workers protect themselves and their families with free life planning assistance. Now known as Essential Planning for Essential Workers, the program is set to grow.
Designing the initiative to operate virtually was a challenging key component during the ongoing efforts to protect public health and practice social distancing. Staff from both organizations collaborated, combining the invaluable experience of JDC’s Pro Bono Legal Services team and BASF’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) with the practice area expertise of BASF and Barristers Club section leadership. After six weeks in operation, the program has proven to operate smoothly, with volunteer attorneys eager to help qualified individuals.
Richard Kinyon, Shartsis Friese, volunteers with the program and has accepted multiple cases. A partner in the firm’s Family Wealth Planning practice group, Kinyon enjoys applying his immense experience to help people reduce anxiety around issues that are often not pleasant to contemplate, such as wills and other end-of-life decisions.
Especially in times of crisis, “law is bewildering to people to people,” says Kinyon, and it “feels good to be able to use my expertise and experience to help deserving people” at this time. Recently, he helped a family with adult children start the estate planning process over the phone. The husband, who works in the medical field, contacted the program and was referred to Kinyon. Kinyon spent a few hours talking to the couple, walking them through necessary forms, considerations about their children and how they want their affairs to be handled. “They seemed very pleased,” says Kinyon, adding, “we’re here to help, and we don’t need a ton of information to get started.” Helping people while socially distanced comes with its own set of challenges, but Kinyon learned over the past few months that he can work well remotely. However, he is looking forward to returning to the office and helping even more people with emergency planning needs, including temporary powers of attorney, health care directives, and wills.
BASF and JDC are inspired by the generosity of our volunteers and hope that the expanded program continues to provide comfort to even more essential workers as they continue their daily work of helping people and protecting lives.