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Volunteer Spotlight Published September 2, 2020

Dana Aoyama

When Dana decided she wanted to volunteer with VIP, she saw it as an opportunity to impact the community positively, put her JD to good use, and learn a new legal area – family law. “It’s exciting to delve into an area of law you’ve always wondered about, and VIP has all the tools.”

Dana spent her twenties teaching in Japan and earned her law degree from Temple University upon returning to the United States. Towards the end of her law program, she found a wonderful marriage of passions by teaching the law, which she did at Temple including its Tokyo campus. After that, she worked at a boutique firm in Philadelphia on transactional matters for seven years, left the workforce for a period after having her fourth child, and then rejoined it as part of an international company that provides au pairs.

Dana feels a special connection to family law as a parent. Her perspective on the importance of volunteering in this area and its long-term significance is powerful:

Every time a parent is trying to better a child’s position, I want to help facilitate that. It benefits everyone in the long run.  It’s a win for the child, for the parent, and for society too.

Dana recognizes the potential for meaningful change she can have in her VIP cases. “I feel passionate about putting kids in a good situation so they can put their best foot forward for the rest of their lives.”

Dana finds herself moved and energized by her pro bono work with VIP and recalls a particular client’s resilience.

No matter how tired the client is, she wants to keep fighting for the best for her child. [The custody matter] is a tough situation that has been dragging on for a long time. But I am inspired by her determination to keep at it for her child.

Family law cases are often emotional for the parties involved. Having representation, having an “ally,” as Dana calls it, makes all the difference. Attorney representation in court amplifies the voices of clients who sometimes cannot find their own voice in such a setting, and it gives them a fairer shake.

VIP’s resources, including our online resource library and our family law staff attorney, Todd Nothstein, gave Dana the confidence to enter the courtroom for the six custody cases and one divorce case she has worked on through VIP. She encourages all volunteers to take the opportunity to switch gears and try something they never thought they’d have the chance to try.

Dana summed it up best: Pro bono work has a ripple effect on the client’s family, their community, and Philadelphia as a whole. Dana sees this in each client she represents. Jump in today, and be part of the impact.