Can you tell me a little about your career path?
I am a recently retired FBI Special Agent. Prior to joining the FBI, I was a registered nurse and then an attorney. Shortly after passing the bar, I was accepted into the FBI as a Special Agent. I investigated and then supervised international terrorism matters for over twenty years. As a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the war on terrorism, I became an FBI interrogator and traveled all over the world interviewing victims, witnesses and terrorists. As I neared retirement, I knew I wanted to continue my public service.
How did COVID-19 impact your plans?
The restrictions delayed my post-retirement travel plans but afforded me more opportunities to volunteer with PBRC.
Which of PBRC’s projects do you volunteer with, and what do you do there?
I volunteered to participate with the in-person estate planning clinic run by PBRC’s Home Preservation Project (HPP). When the pandemic made it impossible to meet in person, the HPP team developed a project offering remote advance planning consultations for low-income seniors by telephone. We help our clients complete an Advance Medical Directive and a Financial Power of Attorney.
What do you find interesting about this work?
The most interesting aspect has been the clients’ reactions. I’ve seen high levels of anxiety at the beginning of each telephone call, but by the end, the clients seem much more relaxed and even relieved that the documents have been completed. Each of the clients expressed extreme gratitude for our assistance.
Did you find anything surprising about volunteering remotely?
I thought the telephonic client meetings would be impersonal and make it difficult to truly connect and engage with the clients. Surprisingly, the senior clients actually like the remote process. There have been no logistical challenges. Clients appear to be more comfortable in their home environment talking on the phone with all of their documents and personal items handy.
The most rewarding part of the process is the end of the call, when the client demonstrates confidence and empowerment as they articulate the final steps necessary to execute their documents.
How did the project make it easy to volunteer?
I found the support of PBRC’s mentoring attorney very helpful. After completing the electronic training, I signed up for a session. My mentor contacted me a few days before my first client session, and again on the morning of the session, to discuss any questions or concerns I had. The project uses a Google program that allows the volunteers to “chat” with the mentor while using a Google phone number to call the client from the computer. It has been very convenient to volunteer in such a safe and relaxed environment during the pandemic.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
My most memorable client was terminally ill. Although stoic throughout the call, she began to cry at the end of the session. She shared that she was relieved that the documents were completed and was grateful that I listened to her story without judgment and with compassion. She said she really felt "heard."
How has doing pro bono work impacted you?
This experience reminded me of my days as an ICU nurse. As a nurse, my conversations with my patients were essential to provide them with lifesaving care. Similarly, my conversations with HPP clients are essential to assist them with completing the documents necessary to provide direction and guidance to those who will care for them when they can no longer care for themselves.
What message would you give to attorneys thinking about volunteering?
One hour of your time can literally change the life of a member of our community. If you are thinking about volunteering, please do it -- there’s nothing better than giving back to those who need it the most! The PBRC team will work had to ensure your success!
For more information about volunteering in Maryland, contact:
Dave Pantzer, PBRC Director of Education, Outreach and Technology