Starr Marshall Cash volunteers for a simple reason: “I want to be helpful,” she says. For an attorney with over three decades of experience in practice areas ranging from criminal defense to real estate to family law to landlord/tenant matters, this mission statement speaks to Starr’s character and focus. Her combination of expertise and remarkable calm make her an invaluable partner and a stellar volunteer.
Starr was born, raised, and educated in the Pittsburgh area. Before attending Duquesne University’s law school, she studied at Carlow College, at the time a small women’s institution.
“That close-knit environment gave me the tools to speak up and to help others. I honed my advocacy skills there.”
During her legal career, she has worked with the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Maryland Attorney General, the Community Reinvestment Group, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
Since the mid-1990s, Starr has maintained a private practice. At times, her private clients are unable to pay the full fee. Understanding that the cost of legal services can be a significant burden – especially in matters that have enormously high stakes for clients – Starr works to make those services more accessible. “I don’t want to turn anyone away. I tell my clients, ‘Let’s just see what we can come up with,’” she says.
Starr credits her private practice experience for much of the adaptability she shows in her VIP cases. “When I was getting started, I’d represent almost anybody,” she says. “I did custody work, divorce work – even some criminal defense.”
This flexibility continues to serve her well in her pro bono cases. “After all this time, I still get surprised in court,” she says. But she doesn’t balk at these surprises; rather, she does all she can to give her clients the best possible outcome.
Starr recalls a VIP eviction defense case in which she lost “big time,” but refused to leave her client on the hook for a life-shattering judgment. Suspecting the landlord’s case would fall apart in Common Pleas Court, she appealed the decision. In the end, she convinced the landlord’s counsel to reduce the amount owed from nearly $2,000 to $750. As Starr explains, “It seems small, but it’s life-changing for some.”
Many volunteers hesitate to accept cases outside their areas of expertise. Some worry they will make mistakes in court; others fear they won’t have the support they need. Starr encourages these attorneys to “do it! Even if it’s outside your practice area, you’ll find you already have skills you didn’t know about; you’ll get pertinent training and all the help you need from the VIP team.”