Legal Clinic for the Disabled Newsletter
Blank Rome Partner Kathy Ochroch, who serves as the Firm’s Director of Pro Bono Services, recently partnered with Rick Schlegel, Assistant General Counsel of Exelon Corp., in a successful pro bono guardianship matter through the Legal Clinic for the Disabled (“LCD”). Mr. Schlegel and Ms. Ochroch met when he participated in a LCD training session hosted by Ms. Ochroch. In the below LCD Newsletter article, Mr. Schlegel discusses the recent guardianship pro bono case, his commitment to serving as an LCD volunteer, and the importance of pro bono service.
Navigating Guardianship: Volunteer Rick Schlegel
Navigating guardianship is complicated and requires the services of an attorney. For volunteer, Rick Schlegel, Assistant General Counsel of Exelon Corp., a personal investment in the topic helped him help others as a first time volunteer with LCD.
“I was already interested and invested in the subject of guardianship because of my daughter,” said Schlegel. “She has an intellectual disability and is a candidate for guardianship.”
Thanks to the Exelon Legal Department’s pro bono program, Schlegel was encouraged to take part in pro bono work. Through this program, he was paired with LCD.
Schlegel explains the importance of pro bono work to the company, “Exelon considers pro bono legal work as work for the company. It values it as much as your regular work that you would do as part of your job. The legal department has long counted the hours spent doing volunteer work towards the regular work day, for both attorneys and non-attorneys. It’s a great program that really encourages employees to be involved with the community.”
Before undertaking his first guardianship case, Schlegel participated in a training session with LCD Managing Attorney Esther Miller and Kathy Ochroch, Director of Pro Bono Services at Blank Rome LLP. Following the training, he was assigned a case involving a 21-year old man with a profound intellectual disability as well as cerebral palsy and other health concerns. The young man was a candidate for guardianship under the care of his mother, Schlegel’s client.
“It really was just a coincidence that I had a connection with the case’s subject matter,” said Schlegel.
For Schlegel, the case for guardianship was obvious. The young man needed a wheelchair, was non-verbal and depended on caretakers. Ochroch and Schlegel represented the client’s mother, who had cared for her son his whole life. Schlegel appeared in court on two separate occasions to present the petition and advocate in favor of the guardianship, in the face of the opposition of another family member. He explains, “It was my job to shepherd it through the system. The process of obtaining a guardianship really does require the involvement of a lawyer. The folks that LCD does it for can’t afford one, but the need for legal help is essential.”
“I was thrilled when the court granted the petition for guardianship to the client’s mother. It was extremely rewarding work and is a great opportunity to provide legal services for those who need help navigating the legal maze,” said Schlegel. “It’s not easy making life care and medical treatment decisions. His mother, as well as others in similar situations, need to have the power to make the necessary decisions. They really do need a lawyer to get the guardianship in place. And, if I could fulfill that role, I was happy to do it.”
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