By: Julie Madrid, MLS, VLP Family Law Intern
Every month, the Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal volunteerism. The award is a distinct honor. Of the 480 attorneys and paralegals on VLP’s volunteer panel to volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.
The December 2021 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month award is given to Rudy Valenzuela, Esq., in memoriam.
Mr. Valenzuela was a valued volunteer attorney who had been with VLP since 1992. Over the years, he had advised 1,318 clients in 200 clinics, serving 567 hours of legal time. He also had taken on 14 direct representation cases for clients in VLP. He was a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law and practiced law for 31 years. He passed away on September 19, 2021. He will be greatly missed.
My name is Julie Madrid, and I work as a family law intern at VLP. I had the privilege to write this article and to interview Mrs. Claudia Ochoa, his paralegal at the Law Offices of Rudy Valenzuela. After our interview, I cried. The information I learned about this man moved me in a way I cannot describe.
Rudy Valenzuela was known as a very nice man. Mrs. Ochoa said, “I still wait for his phone calls.” She shared she had the best schedule and said, “He was such a nice boss. He never micromanaged me. He allowed me to make a lot of decisions on my own. I am very thankful because I learned a lot. It was great working with him.” She added that Mr. Valenzuela was very kind with his clients. Mr. Valenzuela would accept cases even if the client could not pay him. He also took clients’ calls after business hours. Claudia described him as, “An attorney who was more for people than working for profit.”
Mrs. Ochoa shared some of the most memorable stories she could think of. The first story was about a woman who was getting a divorce. Mr. Valenzuela realized that the client felt lonely after her divorce, and she would call him just to talk. He always took her calls. The client was unable to pay him in full, so she tried to make it right by leaving gifts around his office. The second story was about a client who was in and out of prison because of drug addiction. The two met when the client was a juvenile. He was a lifelong client who stated, “Rudy did more for me than my own father.”
SALA’s staff members shared their memories of Rudy. Olivia Sanders, VLP Administrative Assistant, said, “He was very giving with his time no matter who it was.” Anthony Young, Esq., Executive Director of Southern Arizona Legal Aid, said, “I started working for SALA in 2007 and I remember seeing Rudy in and out of the office. One time he was sitting in a conference room with a group of people and I decided to introduce myself to the room. I thanked him for the years of volunteer service. He did not want the attention on him, and instead he brought the attention and conversation back to SALA.”
I did not know Mr. Valenzuela, but I wish I had. Thank you, Mr. Valenzuela, for all the days you made brighter.
For questions or comments about this blog, please contact us as: Connections@sazlegalaid.org