BANGOR, Maine — When Martha Novy-Broderick took her oath to become a lawyer in 1986, Lew Vafiades welcomed her to the bar.
On Thursday, she and attorney Barbara Cardone received the Lew Vafiades Pro Bono Award for their work at the Penobscot County Bar Association Legal Aid Clinic. The award is presented each year by the Volunteer Lawyers Project, which runs the clinic.
The award is named after Vafiades, who died in 2001 at age 81. With his cousin Nicholas Brountas he founded the Bangor law firm that still bears their names — Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky.
“[Lew] was there when I was sworn in,” Novy-Broderick, of Lincoln, said at the award presentation held at the Penobscot Judicial Center. “He gave a speech about giving back and I’ve never forgotten it. He was one of my mentors.”
Novy-Broderick first volunteered at the clinic in March 2010 with fellow Lincoln attorney Patricia Locke.
Since then she, along with Cardone of Bangor, has volunteered an average of three hours a month at the Bangor clinic. At each session, a Penobscot County attorney goes over six cases with people who have been screened for financial eligibility, according Jim Mitchell, who coordinates the program in Bangor. To be eligible, clients’ income after deductions may not exceed 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
The volunteer attorneys do not represent individuals in court but explain the legal process and advise people on how to represent themselves in legal matters. The vast majority of cases involve family and financial matters.
“I find it a really satisfying way to help people,” Novy-Broderick said. “I support helping people help themselves.”
Cardone, whose practice is devoted to family law, offers advice on similar cases at the clinic.
“It gives me a sense that I’m doing the work I was trained to do and I’m meeting a need that [needs] to be met,” she said at the reception.
Between October 2009 and Aug. 31, 2011, the clinic served 345 clients, Juliet Holmes Smith, executive director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project, said Thursday. About 85 percent of those cases dealt with family law and 15 percent concerned financial matters such as foreclosure, bankruptcy and debt, she said.
“People fill out an evaluation sheet after they meet with attorneys,” Mitchell said. “On the comment section, they say things like, ‘Now I can sleep at night,’ ‘She gave me back my peace of mind’ and ‘I feel much better knowing what my options are.’”
The award was named for Vafiades in 2004. His widow, Marian Vafiades of Hampden, attended Thursday’s ceremony, as she has in the past.