A lawyer of more than 20 years, Lisa Seltzer Becker has helped hundreds of clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia deal with divorce, custody, domestic violence, Collaborative law, premarital agreements, education and school discipline, and other related issues. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and received her JD from Washington College of Law, American University. She is admitted to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Lisa is currently Of Counsel at McMillian Metro, P.C. and has proudly served on the JCADA Board of Directors since 2012.
What drew you to JCADA initially? Why did you decide to join the board and get more involved?
About five or six years ago, I met an individual who was using the counseling services at JCADA, and she told me how much it was helping her. I was very impressed. Of course I had seen the JCADA signs on the bathroom stalls at synagogue, so I was already familiar with JCADA’s purpose. However, from my conversation with this individual, I realized that JCADA provided counseling services to individuals experiencing domestic abuse in many forms, such as emotional and financial abuse and issues of control and manipulation regarding child custody.
As a divorce and custody lawyer, I was dealing with clients experiencing these issues on a daily basis and I saw the synergy between JCADA’s services and my practice. So I volunteered to talk to a group of JCADA clients about the legal process involving divorce and custody. I really enjoyed the experience and from there it was just a natural progression of getting more involved with JCADA (giving in-service training to the JCADA therapists regarding the law, talking to small groups of clients, joining the Board, helping on committees, etc.).
What do you do as a member of the JCADA Attorney Network?
As a member of the Attorney Network, JCADA refers clients to me and I give the JCADA referrals a free one-hour consultation, although it usually ends up being longer than one hour. The prospective client may or may not hire me and I’m not obligated to take on any particular client. I also sometimes talk to small groups of JCADA clients about the legal process. The Attorney Network does not have a particular pro bono requirement; it’s really a function of what an individual attorney is able to do. It might be giving an hourly discount, a free consultation, talking to JCADA clients about a particular legal issue for free, or taking on an entire case pro bono.
Why should other attorneys consider this volunteer opportunity?
I highly recommend that other attorneys volunteer for several reasons: (1) JCADA is a great organization which provides free counseling services to its clients and empowers them to pursue what they need to help themselves, and many JCADA clients have a great need for experienced lawyers; (2) JCADA’s Legal Access Program Director, Spencer Cantrell, is an attorney but brings a social worker’s perspective, and she is accustomed to referring cases to attorneys and maintaining a very professional relationship with attorneys while respecting the ethical rules and boundaries required for lawyers and therapists; (3) a lot of clients going through divorce and/or custody litigation may need additional emotional support which JCADA provides to its clients through counseling; consequently the client does not have to rely inappropriately on the lawyer as an emotional resource; and (4) volunteering can substantially increase business for the lawyer.
What are some issues that JCADA clients experience that you might find unique in your practice?
I have always been interested in the plight of agunot (“chained women”). These are Jewish women whose husbands refuse them a get (Jewish religious divorce). Some Jewish female clients, especially Orthodox ones, have to factor in this additional concern when getting divorced in an abusive situation. A controlling husband might try to extort a better financial settlement or custody arrangement for himself before agreeing to give the get.
How has volunteering with JCADA impacted you in your practice?
It has broadened my domestic practice in both tangible and intangible ways. I have gotten wonderful client referrals from JCADA. I have also gained knowledge about domestic abuse and how it impacts on my clients. Both are invaluable.