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December 16, 2008

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION PROGRAM INCREASES NUMBER OF PRO BONO ATTORNEYS TO ASSIST HOMEOWNERS FACING FORECLOSURE

Free Continuing Legal Education Seminar Provides Training for 250 Volunteer Attorneys to Help Represent Homeowners in Foreclosure Settlement Conferences

In its continuing effort to address the foreclosure crisis and fill the need for enhanced pro bono civil legal services, the New York State Bar Association, in conjunction with several local bar associations, sponsored a free CLE seminar and at the end of the day, more than 250 volunteer attorneys had the tools and resources to assist homeowners facing the growing threat of losing their homes.  Significantly, each participating attorney also committed to provide pro bono legal services to a homeowner going through foreclosure settlement conference proceedings. 

The residential foreclosure training program was held yesterday at the Queens County Bar Association in Jamaica.  Queens and Kings have been among the hardest hit counties in the State, with more than 4,600 foreclosures and 3,000 foreclosures filed this year, respectively.  Suffolk County, where a similar CLE training program is being planned, has been the hardest hit county with nearly 5,900 foreclosures filed as of November of this year. 

"With the number of foreclosures rising into the tens of thousands across New York this year alone, it is absolutely essential that we mobilize as many volunteer lawyers as possible to assist homeowners," said State Bar President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP). 

"Through outstanding training programs, members of the Association really stepped up to assist in ensuring there are critical civil legal services available to homeowners in these difficult economic times.  I commend all of the attorneys who donated their time and expertise to these worthwhile initiatives that I know will make a big difference and will undoubtedly help many struggling families to save their homes," Leber added.   

The initiative is a joint venture co-sponsored by the Empire Justice Center as part of the NYS Subprime Foreclosure Prevention Services program administered by the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), along with the Queens County Bar Association, the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project, the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project, and the State Bar Association.

For attorneys who were not able to attend, the program will be recorded, and course materials will be made available both online and to all local bars and legal service offices throughout the state to help train more attorneys to handle residential foreclosure cases.

A new law that took affect on September 1, 2008 entitles all New York homeowners with subprime loans in foreclosure to mandatory court settlement conferences that provide a forum for the lender and the borrower to meet together with a mediator with the ultimate goal of achieving a workable resolution to avoid foreclosure.

The CLE training seminar also provided attorneys with background information regarding the foreclosure process, and explained the potential remedies that borrowers can employ to protect their homes.  An expert panel of attorneys, educators and civil legal service providers gave an overview of recent legislation and discussed how new developments may effect the ability of borrowers to negotiate short sales, deeds in lieu of foreclosure, forbearance agreements, and other settlement tactics.  Attorneys participating in the training seminars also received eight credits toward their CLE requirements.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  Founded in 1876, the Association's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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