Thursday, October 18, 2007
Heimov Named Executive Director of Children’s Law Center
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles has chosen Leslie Starr Heimov as its executive director, the organization said yesterday.
“Leslie has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and a deep commitment to an open and collaborative style of management,” attorney Edward P. Lazarus, who chairs the CLC board, said in a statement. “The Board is confident that she is the right person to lead CLC’s efforts to serve the tens of thousands of children that CLC represents and to enhance the rights of all dependent youth.”
Heimov was the organization’s policy director and one of four persons serving as co-executive directors after Miriam Krinsky resigned last year.
Krinsky resigned Dec. 15, saying she could no longer run day-to-day operations while concentrating on CLC’s “policy and reform agenda.” She was reassigned to external activities such as lobbying and fundraising, Lazarus said at the time.
The nonprofit agency represents most of the children in Los Angeles Superior Court dependency cases, more than 24,000 by CLC’s count. It became embroiled in controversy as Krinsky implemented a restructuring that upset many of the attorneys, as well as some judicial officers.
CLC, formerly Dependency Court Legal Services, has traditionally operated with three independent legal units, each functioning as a separate law firm, enabling them to represent clients with potentially or actually conflicting interests.
As originally envisioned, the restructuring would have phased out the second and third units, eventually leaving a single, core law firm and necessitating that cases involving actual conflicts be referred to outside attorneys.
This led to charges by some of the firm’s lawyers that client’s rights were being sabotaged. The former heads of the two secondary units filed suit, claiming they were fired by Krinsky for opposing the consolidation
Those suits were settled earlier this year.
Heimov explained yesterday that decisions were made earlier this year to leave the second and third units in place. There are now 66 “case-carrying attorneys” in the core unit, and 15 in each of the other two units, and vacancies in all units can be filled, so that the two secondary units are no longer in danger of being eliminated through attrition, the new director explained.
There are no plans to change that system, Heimov said, absent a “dramatic” increase of decrease in the caseload.
The feedback she has been receiving from the court’s judicial officers, she said, is that “they are pleased that there is no drama” within CLC but frustrated by staff turnover. She acknowledged that “we have new and younger lawyers,” but said that they are enthusiastic about representing children and will improve with experience.
“This isn’t kiddie law,” she told the MetNews, but is a “complicated area” that the attorneys will have to master over time. She added that CLC’s pay structure allows it to bring in higher-paid starting attorneys with practice experience, albeit outside the dependency area.
What excites her, she said, is that the attorneys “are talking about kids and cases and families,” and not about CLC’s internal problems.
Heimov joined the organization in 1992, serving as a staff attorney and later supervising attorney. She later served as special projects director, responsible for CLC’s legislative and policy agenda.
She also served as project director of the Home At Last initiative funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, chaired a countywide Task Force on Pregnant and Parenting Teens, and helped found the Task Force to End Homophobia in Foster Care.
A certified specialist in child welfare law, Heimov serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counsel for Children and on the National Advisory Board of the Children’s Law Office Project and is a trials skills instructor for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company