Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal voluntarism. The award is a distinct honor. Of the 533 attorneys and paralegals who volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.
Edwinus van Vianen is the April 2021 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award Recipient.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Ed went to Eastern Michigan University to study Radio, Television, and Film. He then moved west to Los Angeles to pursue a career in filmmaking. He ended up working at a postproduction studio in Burbank and at the University of Southern California in an audio visual lab. After working at USC, he recognized the value of understanding both business and law and decided to pursue joint JD and MBA degrees at the University of San Diego.
After graduating, Ed worked in bankruptcy law in San Diego and then moved to Arizona to be closer to his twin brother. In Phoenix he worked as a bailiff with a tax judge and then as a legal assistant in the Arizona Attorney General’s office before becoming an Assistant Attorney General. In this position he worked with around 80 state agencies to collect debts and file claims. His most recent move was into private practice and he has been with his current firm, Fitzgibbons Law, for the last 15 years. In his current role, he does employment law, bankruptcy law, civil litigation, and real estate work. He has been able to help local Casa Grande businesses, grassroots groups, and valued community members understand their cases and get through tough legal and financial battles. He has won several awards including being named one of the ten Best Attorneys in Arizona by the American Institute of Legal Counsel, being noted within the Lawyers of Distinction, and being recognized as the American Institute of Trial Lawyers Litigator of the Year.
At SALA, Ed has been instrumental in helping with eviction work and real estate law which is currently a hot topic in Arizona. Ed has given over 112 hours of pro bono time in eviction cases in rural areas in 2020-21, making him one of the top contributing pro bono attorneys in VLP during the pandemic. These cases require a large commitment as they are legally complex and involve multiple filings and appearances in the Superior Court. His advocacy and fight for justice are appreciated throughout SALA.
Outside of work, Ed enjoys spending time with his family and helping with community events. Ed is a member of the Rotary Club of Casa Grande, the Knights of Columbus, the Saint Thomas More Society, and he supports the Boy Scouts of America after being an Eagle Scout himself. Some of the events he is working on with the Rotary Club include a meal distribution service and a raffle & auction that helps local students get scholarships for their education.
He advises anyone who is considering law school to understand how the legal field is changing and to keep their options open. He cites family law as an industry that is quickly adapting and no longer requires the exact same licensing as before. Ed believes if you enjoy working through legal problems and having client relationships, being an attorney could be a good fit. In addition, he believes all attorneys have a duty to do pro bono work if they are able, and that future attorneys should share this passion for helping people.
For questions or comments about the blog, please contact us at Connections@sazlegalaid.org