Judge A. Gail Prudenti, executive director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law and special advisor to Dean Eric Lane, was interviewed by Long Island Business News about her first months at Hofstra Law.
In the Q&A, published on Jan. 25, 2016, Prudenti, who retired as Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts of New York State in July, discusses her decision to come to Hofstra Law, her vision for the Center for Children, Families and the Law, and its two new initiatives — the Mediation Project and the Guardianship Project for Indigent and Developmentally Delayed Youth. She also offers some advice for people interested in a career in law.
What drew you to this position at Hofstra?
I was 62 in July, and retired from the court system in my various roles. The most satisfaction I’ve had is helping the most people I could possibly help … and there was a need here to be innovative and to implement. Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz knew my background. He felt strongly that there was a need for the law school to teach the next generation the belief in realizing it’s a privilege to be a lawyer and deal with cultures in crisis, and to be a lawyer devoted at least part of the year to serving the public good.
What is your vision for the center?
I see this growing into a family justice center where we can offer people services or refer them [to service providers]. I reach out to justice partners first to hear their concerns, so when we start a program, everyone can agree we are going about in the right way.
How big is the need for mediation services?
A lot of people aren’t getting divorced right now because they can’t afford to get divorced. It’s a continuing saga. It’s unfortunate for the people involved. There’s no closure, and the children suffer for years.
Tell us about the model for the Mediation Project.
I visited The Center for Out-of-Court Divorce in Denver in October of 2015, and observed it for three days. The services are impressive, professional and interdisciplinary. If a child is suffering psychologically, counseling is available. If a family is suffering financially, expert financial planners are brought in.
What about the Guardianship Project for Indigent and Developmentally Delayed Youth?
Indigent families with a developmentally disabled or delayed child may find themselves at a crossroads when the infant reaches 18, and they must have a guardian appointed to make medical, legal and life decisions. Usually the parent will continue in that position, but sometimes parents cannot fulfill the role, and they worry about the future.
How will this program work?
Clinical faculty and volunteer attorneys work with trained students to establish guardianships and standby guardianships. We will partner with organizations such as AHRC.
Why these two initiatives?
We are here to think of better ways to help people, so this is a way to start. Both programs have tremendous needs. The matrimonial part of it takes a lot of planning — all of the pieces have to be put together. Guardianship is part of my area of expertise. I wanted to help two totally diverse projects that help two diverse communities. I hope to help more communities in the future.
Any advice for those interested in a law career?
In the practice of law, there’s a place for everyone. Identify your strengths and weakness, find mentors and get involved in your community and the political process — whatever your persuasion. Keep your options open. Fulfill your professional goals while serving the public good, and you will find keys to success.
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