Throughout the month of October, we’ll be celebrating our amazing team of pro bono lawyers, and today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Byron. Susan grew up in Sarasota, then lived and worked in New York and California before returning as corporate counsel at an insurance company. Although she has only been volunteering with Legal Aid for the past two years, she has already worked on 71 cases providing more than 225 hours in free legal services. We’re so grateful for Susan’s hard work and thrilled to shine a spotlight on her today.

Tell us about your background—what made you want to become a lawyer?

“My first career was in broadcast journalism.  After college I went to work at 60 Minutes.  I was fortunate to be surrounded with intellectually stimulating people investigating important issues at CBS News, which led to my interest in becoming an attorney.”

What made you decide to volunteer as a pro bono lawyer for Legal Aid of Manasota?

“After working as a corporate lawyer for commercial clients, I enjoy the opportunity to work with people one on one and to affect issues important to their lives. With them, it’s not just about the corporate bottom line.”

What has the experience of volunteering for Legal Aid been like? Has there been a moment or client experience that has particularly touched you?

“Most clients whom I’ve worked with are very appreciative of Legal Aid services.  We are dealing with life-changing issues, and I’ve made connections beyond the typical attorney/client relationship. It’s extremely gratifying when clients place their trust in us.  Especially during this pandemic, there are several clients that check in for additional assistance. My commitment to being their attorney advisor goes beyond a ‘one-and-done’-type interaction.”

Why is Legal Aid of Manasota important to our community?

“The high cost of legal representation excludes the needs of low-income families.  Legal Aid gives assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system, which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”

What do you wish people understood about the justice system and legal aid? How would you make justice work for everyone?

“The Courts should be accessible to everyone, but assistance of counsel is mostly out of reach to low-income clients.  Legal Aid assistance is often only the only resource available to those facing life-altering consequences, such as losing their home, employment or custody of their children.  Also, many people don’t realize not all legal aid offices are federally funded, and that private contributions are necessary to sustain legal aid services.”

What is one thing people might not know about you? What are your hobbies/passion projects? What do you love about our local community?

“I enjoy traveling, playing music and exploring our beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches.  We are fortunate to live in a community that is rich in artistic talent.”