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Westport Woman To Lead State's First Legal Incubator In Bridgeport

Jennifer Ferrante of Westport will coordinate the state's first legal incubator at the Bridgeport-based Center for Family Justice.
Jennifer Ferrante of Westport will coordinate the state's first legal incubator at the Bridgeport-based Center for Family Justice. Photo Credit: Contributed photo

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Jennifer Ferrante, an attorney from Westport, has joined the staff of the Center for Family Justice as its new legal incubator coordinator.

In that position, Ferrante will help manage and launch the Justice Legal Center, Connecticut’s first legal incubator program, which is set to open early in 2017.

“I am thrilled to be a part of The Center for Family Justice’s important initiative to bring a legal incubator program to the Bridgeport area, and to ultimately increase access to justice for individuals and families affected by violence that cannot afford traditional legal representation,” said Ferrante.

The Center is staffed by private practice attorneys with a demonstrated commitment to social justice who also provide legal assistance to the victims of domestic and sexual violence served by the Center, according to an announcement.

Having Jennifer as part of our team is critical to achieving our goal of helping our clients have greater access to the legal counsel and justice they deserve,” said Debra A. Greenwood, president & CEO of The Center for Family Justice. “We are thrilled to have an attorney with Jennifer’s skills, experience and compassion for victims of domestic and sexual violence on our team.”

Ferrante’s background includes private practice law and pro bono work with “underserved populations,” the statement said.

As a former litigation associate at the New York City law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, she offered pro bono services to clients of a domestic violence program called Sanctuary for Families.

She later worked in Connecticut for the RAE Law Group, a private, nonprofit law practice that served victims of violence.

The Justice Legal Center will bring selected attorneys in private practice on site at CFJ's Bridgeport headquarters.

In exchange for low-cost office space, professional training and administrative support, the attorneys commit to offer CFJ’s clients free or reduced fee legal services.

Legal incubators give attorneys a chance to serve clients in need by giving them resources to grow their practices.

There are now more than 60 such incubators in the United States, said Angela Schlingheyde, Director of Civil Legal & Court Advocacy.

"Two attorneys have officially signed on, and a third was slated to become part of the center this week, with a fourth interview coming up," she said on Monday.

"These programs are such a no brainer for the State, in terms of coming up with ways to increase access to justice."

"The attorneys in the program are running their own individual law practices so the clients they select are up to them," Schlingheyde said.

The whole point is they get everything they need to start a law practice, she said.

“Initially, they will be getting referrals from me. When a client comes through the center and is identified by advocates as having a legal need, I would be a point of referral. The attorneys in the incubator program will, in some cases, offer pro bono. They're working with a clientele demographic who are able to pay for attorneys. They have access to funds. But they don’t have (enough) for $25,000 retainers, and extremely high fees.”

The Center's opening is with support from the Leir Charitable Foundations in memory of the Henry J. Leir and Erna D. Leir.

The Center serves victims and raises awareness about domestic and sexual violence in Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.

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