Meet VIP’s Volunteer of the Month
When the eviction moratoria expire, scores of low-income Philadelphians will come face-to-face with the threat of homelessness. Volunteer attorneys like Heidi Crikelair can play a critical part in managing the coming crisis. Heidi, an associate at Blank Rome LLP who focuses on business litigation, has represented nine VIP clients in eviction proceedings, and hopes her fellow professionals will join her as she continues.
Heidi recently shared some reflections on her volunteer work with the VIP team. Read on to hear what she had to say.
Why do you volunteer to defend tenants?
“I took my first VIP case in 2018 after attending a VIP training on eviction defense. I had no experience with landlord-tenant law, but I found the training interesting, and I decided to give it a try.
“At that first training, I was struck by the presenter’s observation that an eviction proceeding can be a critical juncture for individuals and families. The outcome of an eviction hearing has tremendous implications not just on the tenant, but also on the community as a whole. All of my VIP clients have proven this to me – from the mom who wanted to stay in her home through the school year so as not to disrupt her kids’ education, to the grandmother trying to provide a stable environment for her special-needs grandson. Every case has higher stakes than immediately meet the eye.”
What role does pro bono play in your career?
“Fortunately, Blank Rome is deeply committed to pro bono, for which I am very thankful. On a personal level, I try to be mindful that the practice of law is both a business and a profession. I think that as licensed attorneys, we have an obligation to use our skillset to seek justice and good for our communities and neighbors.
“I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know each of my VIP clients. Especially in eviction defense cases, volunteering with VIP not only provides clients with a sense of dignity – i.e., their situation is worth an attorney’s time and effort – but it also makes a lasting difference in their families’ financial health and security.
“When my VIP clients thank me for my time, I tell them it is my privilege. Volunteering with VIP has given me a greater connection to the city and a deeper appreciation for all of those who live here.”