Inland Counties Legal Services (ICLS) recognized some of our most dedicated volunteers and advocates at our annual Advocates for Justice celebration on October 12 at the Life Arts Center in downtown Riverside.
Fenwick & West LLP (Fenwick) was recognized as ICLS’ Law Firm of the Year. The firm, which is known for advising leading technology and life sciences companies at every stage of their lifecycle, was recognized as 2023’s Law Firm of the Year for its dedication to small business owners and entrepreneurs in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Over the past year Fenwick has provided legal guidance to over 50 small business owners in the region, across a range of industries, including food, technology, and professional services.
“Small businesses are such important parts of our communities – not only in providing goods or services, but in uplifting the communities they serve, creating new job opportunities, and bringing people together – and it’s been a privilege to connect with so many amazing entrepreneurs through our partnership with ICLS,” said Attorney Hilarie Atkisson, the Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Pro Bono Counsel at Fenwick.
Attorneys Tom Casparian and Brett Watson from Cozen O’Connor (Cozen) were recognized as Volunteers of the Year. Tom was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for his work with ICLS’ Systemic Impact Litigation team, which challenges unlawful policies, procedures, and practices that prevent people from improving their lives. Over the course of several months, Tom provided strategic litigation guidance in a housing case on behalf of several clients who were subject to an illegal rent increase, with one of them having a lock-out order. Tom joined weekly team meetings, assisted with strategy, reviewed and drafted important legal documents, and assisted in negotiations with opposing counsel. With Tom’s advocacy, ICLS was able to reinstate our client’s original lease terms (without any rent increase), obtain $7,000 in damages for our client, have almost a year of rent forgiven, and dismiss the unlawful detainer judgment entered against her.
Brett Watson, also from Cozen, was celebrated as Volunteer of the Year for his work with ICLS’ Family Law Team and Guardianship Program, which helps caregivers navigate complex court proceedings and establish stability for children who have been subjected to trauma, neglect, domestic violence, and child abuse. Over the past year, Brett quickly became an integral part of the ICLS team and a staunch advocate for clients. Brett has helped multiple ICLS clients with guardianship support; notably, he recently helped an ICLS client secure permanent guardianship status over her grandchild, who is now in a much more stable, safe environment.
ICLS’ own, Jennifer Schinke, an attorney with the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Advocate for Pro Bono for integrating several volunteers into ICLS’ LITC, which provides advice and representation to taxpayers faced with tax issues, ensuring that the correct outcome is not dependent on a person’s ability to pay for representation. Jennifer’s efforts in integrating pro bono volunteers into her practice have enabled ICLS to expand LITC, providing high-quality legal representation to more people in the region and resolving hundreds of tax controversies for clients each year in a region where many are faced great financial need.
Finally, longtime ICLS Board Member and advocate Elaine Rosen received the Leader for Justice Award for her decades-long contributions to the organization and the community. Elaine has served on the ICLS Board of Directors for nearly 20 years, shepherding ICLS through challenging times, spearheading new projects to expand services, and empowering the organization to grow alongside community needs.
Elaine’s impact in Southern California goes beyond her role at ICLS. As an attorney, Elaine fought for justice, assisting countless people through the legal process. And beyond that, she served as judge, mediator, professor, executive director, and mentor to many—improving the lives of everyone around her. Elaine also volunteered for many nonprofit organizations, including the Alliance for Children’s Rights and Sexual Assault Services of San Bernardino; taught at the University of Redlands and California State University, San Bernardino; and participated in six different bar associations, including both for Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
“This year’s awardees highlight the incredible impact of private attorney collaboration with legal aid advocates,” ICLS Executive Director Tessie Solorzano said. “The only way we can impact as many clients as we do is because of the generosity of people like our award winners, and we are proud to recognize them for their efforts to close the justice gap in our communities.”