By Rita Lord
“My parents. Definitely, my parents,” responded Attorney Meghan Healy when asked what prompted her to become a volunteer in numerous social justice organizations. Meghan, her father Howard Healy and sister Kathleen Healy all practice with Di Renzo & Bomier in Neenah and all have volunteered for the Winnebago County Legal Clinic (pdf) since its inception in 2008. The clinic is held at three locations in the Fox Valley – Menasha, Oshkosh and Neenah – once a month. Meghan volunteers at the Menasha site.
Meghan’s parents were always involved in community and charitable organizations when she was growing up, and their example taught her the importance of giving back. She also credits the values she learned during her Catholic schooling (from first grade through Marquette Law School). “I feel I would be neglecting my responsibility if I didn’t give something back in whatever way I can,” Meghan said, “and I’m especially happy to be able to do so in the city where I grew up.”
She also credits her firm, Di Renzo & Bomier for supporting her pro bono work. Meghan’s father has done legal work for nonprofits for many years, and the court occasionally calls on lawyers in the firm to accept cases on a pro bono basis. Meghan also provides pro bono representation to residents of the Christine Ann Center, a domestic abuse shelter, in obtaining restraining orders. “I think it helps them in a lot of ways,” she said, “because women and men and children who never would have gone forward with filing a restraining order are now doing so.”
In discussing her work at the legal clinic, Meghan said, “It feels wonderful to know that you have made a difference in someone’s life. You know that if you hadn’t been there, that person’s life could have been much different.” She gave the example of one of her father’s cases that started withhelping a tenant at the legal clinic. The tenant, who didn’t speak English, was facing eviction after a dispute with a landlord about an unresolved mold problem. Without the assistance her father provided, it’s likely the tenant would have been out on the street.
“I think the legal clinic in our area has helped many people, but it’s really just putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. There’s a much greater need, and I think we need more lawyers to step up to the plate,” Meghan stated at a public hearing held by the Access to Justice Commission in July 2012. The once-a-month legal clinic in Menasha averages more than 40 attendees seeking advice. “A lot of times I take people’s numbers and call them the next day because you can’t do a lot when you have 15 or 20 minutes with people,” she said.
“Those who go to law school do it because they want to make a difference in people’s lives. What better way to make a difference than to assist someone who needs help but doesn’t have the knowledge or ability to handle it themselves? Each of us should consider it a responsibility to give back where we can.”
Meghan also volunteers for the United Way, Winnebago County Teen Court, the Neenah-Menasha YMCA, and as a mock trial coach at St. Mary Central High School. She is married to Attorney Brenton Teeling, of the Menn Law Firm in Appleton. Meghan and Brenton are expecting their first child.