Jessica Ramos is the managing attorney of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. Jessica joined the VLP earlier this year from Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) where she spent eleven years in the Agricultural Worker and Immigrant Rights Practice Group.

Jessica obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish from The Ohio State University and pursued the law with an interest in working with Hispanic communities, earning her JD from the University of Toledo School of Law. Managing the VLP has allowed Ramos to tap into her core values of civic engagement and public service, instilled in her as a child by her family while still fulfilling her passion for immigration law.

“I get to keep doing what I’m passionate about, but I have found a new love of working with the volunteer program and really making sure that clients who otherwise wouldn’t get services are matched with pro bono volunteers,” she said.

For Ramos, one of the most exciting aspects of the job is watching attorneys expand into different areas of law, learn new things, and achieve victories with their new skill sets. She especially loves to watch attorneys who have never been to court in their life win their first court case.

However, she says, there’s not always a positive outcome, which can be discouraging for the volunteers. “We just tell people that you have to keep soldiering on. We get what we get, and all we can do is make the best out of it,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also posed many challenges for the VLP. Happily, Ramos was pleased to see the level of commitment many of the volunteers maintained. In the first three quarters of 2021, VLP has opened almost 2,000 cases, almost a complete return to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve been delighted at the number of folks that utilized our technology,” Ramos said. “Especially some of our older volunteers who traditionally didn’t participate in a lot of things where technology was involved.”

Ramos hopes there will be more opportunities to expand pro bono service in areas that the VLP has not traditionally supported as well as meeting the increased need for wills, estate planning, and advance directives. She also will continue collaborating with the Foundation and other legal aid organizations to deliver access to justice across the state. “We are an ever-changing society so even within our state, trying to connect with other legal aids to coordinate our services in an innovative way would expand the value we bring.”

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October is Pro Bono Month and the Foundation is celebrating by highlighting the pro bono coordinators at each Ohio legal aid. Read the profiles.