Retired Attorney Learns New Area of Law to Aid San Francisco’s Most Vulnerable

By Gloria Chun CORP Supervising Attorney and JDC Pro Bono Manager

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The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) is grateful for our Volunteer of the Month, Jim Leigh. Leigh handles Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits cases for clients at the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP).

HAP’s clients are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, and most have mental health disabilities. Leigh likes connecting with San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents and tries to help them feel like part of the community. It reminds him of a John Pring song, “Hello in There” (“So if you’re walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes, please don’t just pass ‘em by and stare as if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello’”).

Jim Leigh

Jim Leigh

Leigh is retired from his solo practice in taxation and estate planning, and trust and probate. He volunteers at HAP with supervision and support from Senior Supervising Attorney Katie Danielson and Senior SSI Advocate Margaret Goins. Though it is “humbling” to learn a new area of law 40 years into practice, he appreciates HAP’s “wonderful support and training,” as well as its collegial environment.

HAP’s support helped Leigh work through a challenging case for a client with an atypical disability profile. Leigh was ultimately able to prove to Social Security that his client is disabled and entitled to benefits, and credits substantial assistance from Goins, along with a San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team psychiatric nurse.

Leigh aims to become as adept at disability law as he was in his private practice specialties. He has also set out to recruit other attorneys—active and retired—to volunteer. Leigh leads by powerful example; he’ll end 2016 with around 600 pro bono hours, and hopes to reach 800-1,000 in 2017. Currently in his forty-first year of law practice, he hopes to volunteer until his fiftieth year.

Originally from Connecticut, Leigh loves San Francisco and lived here from 1969 to 2007. After eight years in Reno, his love of San Francisco brought him back. He enjoys travel within the U.S. and in Europe, as well as opera and art.

For more information about volunteering with the Homeless Advocacy Project, visit www.sfbar.org/HAP.