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Lawyer Offers Free Advice on Streets of Harlem
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lawyer offers free advice in harlem

 

Summary: Lawyer offers free counsel and representation on the streets of Harlem.

  
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With high-profile cases such as those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men who lost their lives during confrontations with cops, we’ve seen an intense reaction from the nation, putting some pull and strain on how individuals regard the police, and, in the case of Andrew Bersin, how he practices his legal profession. Bersin drives from his home in upstate Newburgh a few days a week and sits behind a white plastic table on the streets of Harlem — 125th street, specifically — offering free legal advice to whomever approaches him, and, in some cases, representation in court as well.

“I get the satisfaction of interacting with people who appreciate the guidance I can give them,” he said, as reported by the New York Daily News. “The law can be very intimidating and people can get distressed. Their lives are disrupted. They can’t get answers or any direction, and when I’m able to [aid them] with simple things, you can see how good they feel.”

He takes on an average of one new case each week, and juggles 15 cases at a time, now that he’s working on his own. Previously, he spent ten years as an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County working on about 60 homicide cases, and after that worked at a White Plains-based firm, handling civil rights cases, and then turning to medical malpractice with the Fitzgerald Law Firm.

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After that he offered legal aid in Harlem, accompanied by another lawyer and using a mobile truck, but later, after losing the truck, he took a direct approach and sat on the streets.

“We decided to see how it was on the street itself and that was much better than the [mobile] office,” he said. “People lose their inhibition because you’re basically right in their face.”



Though the problems he is approached for commonly include landlord issues, he has recently taken on an alleged case of police brutality affecting a family of six in Staten Island, the sort of issue that as if by osmosis is putting people like him into the aid of minority communities.

“It’s in minority communities where they do these things,” he said, “and that’s why there’s no trust.”

As Cornelius Ricks, who runs another legal services program, said, “[Bersin] really wants to bring the issues that plague the urban community to the attention of the streets. He serves on cases he can accept, that a lot of lawyers wouldn’t accept. He’s a great litigator.”



 

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