ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — When justice is delayed, the saying goes, justice is denied. Lydia Kulbida introduces us to a “Remarkable Woman” finalist who has spent years helping those in need navigate the legal system and find the justice they deserved but couldn’t afford.
We are judged by a jury of our peers and hope to be seen as equals in the eyes of the law. But too often, someone’s journey through the legal system hits a financial roadblock. That’s where Paula Barbaruolo comes in.
“My clients need protection,” Paula said adamantly. “And I am very protective of my clients.”
Paula runs a small bankruptcy law firm. But when she started practicing law 30 years ago, she started with a firm that focused on matrimonial law. “Women found themselves in debt after divorce back then,” she recalled, “They either weren’t working, or they weren’t earning what their ex-spouses were earning, so they needed bankruptcy relief, and that’s how I ended up practicing bankruptcy law.”
It’s not just her clients that Paula helps. For over 20 years, she has devoted her time to pro bono work, helping develop a program with a local non-profit that focused on coordinating lawyers to volunteer with bankruptcy cases. “They need help, and they don’t have the mechanism or the means to do it, they can’t afford bankruptcy, they can’t afford the court filing fee.”
Her compassion is felt not just in the courtroom, but in her office, where employees who nominated her for the “Remarkable Women” series said you couldn’t find a better boss. “When anyone needs something outside of this—assistance with something in the family life, something personal,” said April Byerwalters, who has worked for Paula for 17 years. “She’s there, she’s there like family.”
There’s perhaps no better example for future lawyers. As a professor at Albany Law, she is living proof of the lesson of giving back each and every week. “I imagine I’m like most adjuncts we don’t teach for any other reason other than we love the law and I love what I do,” Paula pointed out. “When you help people, it’s better to be kinder and nicer, than not.”
And she goes the extra mile for her work family while taking care of her family at home, too. Paula and her husband stay involved in their two sons’ activities.
Whether in the classroom or in the courtroom, office, or at home, loving what she does really means Paula loves to help. One of the main messages she wants people to understand is that it’s OK to ask for help. “Pick up the phone and ask for help when you need it,” she said. “Whether it’s debt, whether it’s a mortgage, whether it’s your mental health, whether it’s your job—ask for help.”