Pine Tree Legal Assistance is pleased to welcome our new Executive Director,

Tom Fritzsche!

One month into his new role, our development team spoke with Tom to get a sense of his first couple of weeks with our organization, what brought him here, and his intentions for the future. 

We've shared his responses below to provided opportunity for our readers to get to know Tom a little better.

What motivated you to become an attorney?


I was looking for ways to put my listening, analytical, and organizational skills to use to work for fairness for people most often excluded from our society’s protections. At its best, the law can be an important tool to make the world a little more just. On top of that, my Dad has always been a great example of a kind, honest person dedicated to fairness, justice and public service. Growing up knowing he was an attorney who started his career at Pine Tree Legal always made that seem like a good path to try to follow.


Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from law school to Pine Tree Legal?


My first job after law school was with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, where I represented immigrant workers in low-wage industries across the Southeast who were confronting violations of their rights to be free from forced labor, sexual harassment, retaliation, wage theft, health and safety hazards, and discrimination. Then, as a fellow at Cardozo School of Law, I helped teach the Immigration Justice Clinic, where law students represent immigrants and community-based organizations in individual immigration cases and in law and policy reform projects. From there, I moved to Vermont to serve as the first Executive Director of the Milk with Dignity Standards Council, which monitors participating dairy farms’ compliance with farmworkers’ human rights, using a supply chain-based alternative dispute resolution method that includes investigation and collaborative resolutions to secure improved working and housing conditions. Joining the Pine Tree Legal team has been a wonderful opportunity to put it all together and come full circle, back home in Maine.


What has your first month looked like?


I’ve focused on listening and building connections with Pine Tree’s excellent team across the state, visiting each of the six offices except Machias (and I’ll be there within a few weeks). Pine Tree is made up of a talented and generous group of people with lots of good ideas.


How would you explain Pine Tree’s long-term and short-term goals?


Pine Tree has been a rock for many low-income Mainers over the years, serving as their first and often last resort for help when facing domestic violence, eviction, foreclosure, unsafe housing conditions, consumer fraud, and other threats to people’s basic needs. As the world changes faster than most of us have seen in our lifetimes, Pine Tree’s foundation, made up of the people on our team, needs to stay strong. We also need to deepen and broaden our connections with all of Maine’s diverse communities. To get through hard times, we will all need to lean on one another, and Pine Tree will continue to be right there when folks need us, no matter how volatile things get around us.


What are the main priorities/goals you hope to accomplish in your first year at Pine Tree Legal?


Right now, low-income Mainers face an ongoing housing crisis that is about to dramatically worse. Putting our eviction defense team in position to succeed by efficiently representing as many people as we can will help vulnerable folks maintain stable income and family conditions and, frankly, will save lives over the winter.


Pine Tree will need to grow over the next few in order to meet increasing legal needs of low-income Mainers. Connecting Pine Tree’s supporters, partners, clients and their communities is essential to ensure a steady foundation as we prepare to increase client outreach and expand several units of the organization.


Why do you feel others should support our mission?


Pine Tree plays a special role for low-income Mainers as a trusted first stop when folks are facing trouble. People know that no matter what else is going on, if they call on Pine Tree, we will be caring and honest and will work hard and with integrity to help them access the justice system if they need it. We serve large numbers of people in a small, rural state where isolation can be both a cause and an effect of folks’ unmet legal needs. Because we combine high-quality legal services with broad accessibility, similar service providers in other states often look to Pine Tree as an example.


Anything else you'd like to share with the Pine Tree readers?


I’ve been fortunate to spend the last two decades working in different models of direct service in many other parts of the country, but there’s no place like Maine.    It’s great to be home. 

You're Invited!

We hope you will join us and meet Tom,

Pine Tree Legal Assistance's new Executive Director! 



Everyone is invited to a casual reception at Maine Beer Company in Freeport on Thursday, October 13th. 


October 13th


Maine Beer Company

Freeport, Maine


* Stay tuned for details on future Meet & Greet opportunities coming up in Northern Maine! *

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