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YLD member is a lawyer by trade, but volunteering is his passion

NEW BRUNSWICK – The NJSBA’s Members Who Inspire program is an ongoing series that turns the spotlight on members and highlights how they are making a difference in their career and outside of the law. The program offers an opportunity for members to share their unique stories with their colleagues, inspire future legal professionals and strengthen awareness of the profession and Association. This story features Robert Holup, who organizes several charitable efforts as co-chair of the Young Lawyers Division’s Philanthropy Committee.

Robert Holup wears many hats.

On a given day you can find him stocking shelves at a local food pantry, or running a mentorship program for prospective law students. After hours, he serves as president of his condo association. Somewhere in the day he finds time for his job—handling securities litigation at Riker Danzig.

How does Holup do it? For him, volunteer service is better than caffeine.

“It doesn’t draw my energy. If anything, it energizes me and allows me to spend a few hours doing other things after working a full day,” Holup said. “I just continue to engage in things that excite me. I’m passionate about service work, so for me it doesn’t seem like work.”

As co-chair of the Young Lawyers Division’s Philanthropy Committee, Holup has a hand in planning volunteer events that benefit families experiencing poverty by partnering with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Toni’s Kitchen—a food ministry in Montclair—and various veterans groups. On a warm Saturday morning in November, Holup and a group of YLD members ran a mobile farmer’s market for MEND, a hunger relief network in Essex County that provides healthy food ahead of Thanksgiving. The young lawyers served assorted fresh fruits and vegetables—225 mangoes, 180 eggs, yellow squash, sweet potatoes and apples—to 80 families representing 226 individuals.

Holup started volunteering with MEND in 2020, when he brought a YLD group to pack and sort food at the organization’s warehouse, according to Keily Hayes, MEND’s director of community impact. Since then, the farmer’s market has become an annual tradition, where Holup takes up a collection from the YLD for whatever MEND needs—nonperishable foods or clothes—loads up a car and runs the mobile food hub.

“He’s been a huge help in terms of bringing more people, spreading awareness about what MEND does and offering an opportunity to give back,” Hayes said.

In another event, Holup and the YLD donated clothing and other items for the Afghan Allies and Friends Winter Drive. Co-sponsored by the NJSBA Pro Bono Committee, Child Welfare Law Section and Military Law and Veterans’ Affairs Section, the drive helped thousands of Afghan evacuees sheltered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County.

“As lawyers we have so many ways to impact people’s lives both inside and outside of law. We’re blessed with where we are in life, and we should make it a point to get involved in some way,” Holup said.

The passion to volunteer started when Holup entered college at Florida State University. There, he joined many service-based organizations to meet people and determine a career path. He took an interest in the county Public Defender’s Office while helping process intakes for people recently detained and arrested, but was ambivalent about attending law school.

“I realized I wanted to do something where I was assisting and helping others. I just didn’t know in what capacity,” Holup said.

After graduating, he joined AmeriCorps for a year and worked with a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., where met staff attorneys who convinced him that a career in the law was multifaceted and provided opportunities to give back.

“I was talking to people and trying to understand what they do, and what avenues I could take to fulfill what I wanted to do in life. That’s ultimately what led me to law school. I saw there were so many careers you could have as an attorney to benefit the public,” Holup said.

The volunteerism continued after he enrolled at George Washington University Law School, where he led a service trip to Jamaica during spring break to rehabilitate a local clinic in a remote area of the mountains. Holup also founded “Lawyers Guild” through his national fraternity, a mentorship and information hub for budding or current Latino law students. The group hosts virtual meetings bi-monthly to discuss various topics surrounding the legal profession, including managing finances and student loan debt, how to supervise other attorneys and tips for applying to law school.

“I realized there were a lot of lawyers in the fraternity who were never connected. I thought it would be a great way to not only support one another with general advice, but also mentor the younger undergrads who were thinking about law school and needed help,” Holup said. “It’s a great way to connect people and help facilitate more Latino lawyers in the profession and build that pipeline.”

Holup joined the YLD in 2020 and almost immediately he developed a rapport with members as someone who is experienced, highly motivated and organized, said Frank DeRienzo, who Holup replaced as the Philanthropy Committee chair.

“Robert has a strong network with volunteer organizations and food pantries, even beyond what he does with the YLD. We’ve been grateful for his help,” DeRienzo said. “He’s been a tremendous asset to the YLD and philanthropy committee in getting young lawyers involved in charity and volunteer work in the community.”

Holup hopes to recruit more young attorneys for the YLD’s charitable functions. His pitch: “It’s great for networking. You get to meet a lot of people in the community you never would have interacted with. And it’s a great way to see the fruits of your labor.”

February 6, 2023
Contact: Thomas Nobile
Director of Communications
Tel: 732-937-7527
[email protected]

Contact: NJSBA Communications Department
Tel: 732-937-7527
Email: [email protected]


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