Social Responsibility

Wolf Haldenstein has a strong tradition of civic service to the community and charitable and professional organizations, which is illustrated by the Firm’s participation in the civil rights and voter registration movements in the South in the early 1960s. The Firm has kept up this unwavering tradition of civic service in various ways as described below, including providing employment opportunities to disadvantaged youth through various public school, college and bar association diversity programs; hiring ex-offenders in supported job training programs; and using the services of minority- and women-owned businesses and law firms.

In addition to Wolf Haldenstein’s firm-wide commitment to civic service, we actively encourage our attorneys to support charitable, community and professional organizations, which is reflected in the diverse background, unique insights and dedication of its partners, such as a longtime partner who is an ex-offender (pre-law school) and has used his thirty-five years at the Firm to the advance the lives of other ex-offenders; a partner who grew up in the foster care system and raises awareness about the plight of older foster children nationally, and another partner who actively advocates for, and protects the rights of, the transgender community.

Diverse Communities

Ex-Offender Community: One of the Firm’s most senior partners, Jeffrey G. Smith, is a board member and chairman emeritus of the Osborne Association. The Osborne Association works in twenty-one prisons, Riker’s Island, and six county jails. It is focused on transforming 8,000 formerly incarcerated individuals and assisting the families of those affected by the social justice system annually. The Osborne Association’s work includes programs that help fathers transition back into home life and current inmates connect with and support their families, as well as group mentoring for young people on probation, employment services and a program called I-CAN that is designed to reduce recidivism. The Osborne Association’s outcomes include lower recidivism, more intact families and healthier communities. Many of the Osborne Association graduates attain high functioning jobs and college level educations. Mr. Smith’s commitments and contributions to The Osborne Association were profiled in a January 2013 article by The Wall Street Journal, entitled Supporting a Productive Life for Former Inmates.

Transgender Community: Partner Thomas Burt has been an advocate for the transgender community nationally and at Wolf Haldenstein. His advocacy ranges from ensuring that transgender community members nationwide have the appropriate documentation needed as they transition; supporting state trans-focused legislation; and co-authoring Wolf Haldenstein’s transgender inclusion policy.

Foster Youth Community:  Partner Regina Calcaterra is the author of a New York Times best-selling memoir which chronicles her life growing up in and out of foster care with her siblings.  She publishes and speaks nationally about the plight of foster children, specifically older foster children who age-out of the system parent-less and how we can assist in providing them various safety nets. Some examples of the response to her awareness-raising include older foster children getting adopted, food banks changing their rules related to allowing children who ask for food without the accompaniment of a parent; and educators nationwide being reminded that no child is a lost cause. She also served as a board member to You Gotta Believe, an organization that works to get older foster children forever homes, for close to a decade. She continues to advocate for its mission.

College Foundation Boards

The primary objective of college foundation boards is to raise funds for students in need, including first generation college students.

While incarcerated, Jeffrey Smith, a Yale Law School graduate, obtained his associate degree from Dutchess Community College. He later became the Board Chair to the college’s Foundation Board where he served for over twelve years.

While still in foster care, Regina Calcaterra attended the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is now the second vice chair of the New Paltz Foundation Board and takes regular visits to the college to speak to diverse groups of students about perseverance, tenacity, resilience and the everlasting impact that a higher education can have upon a disadvantaged student.

Global, National and Community Involvement

Charitable Associations & Giving: Partner Thomas Burt serves as Secretary of the St. Andrew’s Society of New York, the oldest charitable organization in New York and was at the forefront of admitting women as members and into leadership positions at this 260-year old society. Partner Demet Basar has hosted fundraisers for Urban Upbound, which provides resources to public housing residents to foster economic mobility and self reliance.

Philanthropy: In addition to committing their time, Wolf Haldenstein attorneys also ensure that impactful not-for-profits have the resources they need to implement their core mission. A sampling of the organizations that Wolf Haldenstein attorneys support includes not-for-profits that work to address the trauma of child abuse, rights and protections for abused and fostered children, educational excellence, the transgender community, and transitioning ex-offenders.

Educational Excellence: Partner Daniel Krasner is affiliated with various organizations, particularly in the area of Jewish education. He serves as President of the American Friends of Netanya College, and is a board member of both Bar-Ilan University and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. For years, partner Demet Basar has hosted, and continues to host, fundraisers for various student organizations at CUNY Law School including the Black Law Students Association. Partner Malcolm Brown serves as a member of the University of Pennsylvania Secondary School Committee and Minority Recruitment. In honor of a classmate who passed away in the 9/11 attacks, since 2002, partner Matthew Guiney has helped organize an annual golf outing that raises scholarship funding for diverse students to receive a private catholic school education at his alma mater Regis High School. Partner Regina Calcaterra serves as Ambassador to Library for All, which addresses global literacy by developing digital libraries for children in third-world countries.

Inclusion: Partner Rachele Rickert serves on the board and supports a non-profit ministry to disadvantaged children. Of Counsel Robert Altchiler served on the board of the Jewish Community Center.  Partner Janine Pollack served as a co-editor of the book Street Smarts for Women Lawyers published by the Women in the Legal Profession Committee at the New York City Bar Association. Proceeds are being used to display the photos and accomplishments of prominent attorneys of diverse backgrounds on the walls of the New York City Bar Association.

Youth Organizations: Partners Gregory Nespole and Michael Jaffe serve as youth sports coaches in their communities.

Environment: Partner Jeffrey Smith has presided over his community’s environmental advisory council.

Child Abuse Prevention: Partner Regina Calcaterra serves on the advisory committee for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Pro Bono

Wolf Haldenstein attorneys provide pro bono assistance to distinct communities. Former partner Eric Levine, now retired from active practice, serves as Special Counsel for Pro Bono Services for the firm.  In this capacity, Mr. Levine represents victims of domestic violence on a pro bono basis, while also providing assistance and guidance on Wolf Haldenstein’s various other pro bono representations.

Partner Thomas Burt worked for three years as a member of a panel of neutrals overseeing a civil rights settlement concerning day laborers in his local community, the Village of Mamaroneck, New York.  Following settlement before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, the Village and the representatives of Hispanic day laborer plaintiffs each appointed representatives, under the direction of the Court’s referee, to oversee implementation of terms that included cessation of certain enforcement practices, and creation of a new hiring site supported by a local church.  The body was called the Constituents’ Committee on Day Laborer Issues, and it met from 2007 to 2010, when its work was deemed complete.  Mr. Burt has also represents transgender community members nationwide to formalize their transition.

Partners Matthew Guiney, Regina Calcaterra and associate Brittany DeJong have provided pro bono representation to individuals with mental and physical disabilities.  Partner Michael Jaffe’s pro bono activities include working on political asylum cases for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.