By Cynthia B. Jones
This month, the KCBA pays tribute to Rexanne Gibson as its February Volunteer of the Month.
Gibson, a retired lawyer who enjoys emeritus status with the state bar, chose the KCBA's Housing Justice Project (HJP) to lend her precious experience as a volunteer attorney. She has been volunteering for HJP since 2010. As a regular volunteer, Gibson covers shifts at both the HJP Seattle and Kent clinics.
"Rexanne often stays late at clinic and takes cases for ongoing negotiations when doing so is necessary to ensure a favorable outcome for the client," said Gwen Remmen, HJP's program operations and logistics analyst.
"Rexanne's cases are often highlighted as the Housing Justice Project's client stories of the month, not only for the outstanding results she achieves, but also for the professionalism, time commitment and attention to detail that goes into each settlement."
Remmen said that Gibson is an essential part of the HJP volunteer team. We are pleased to recognize her as the Pro Bono Services Volunteer of the Month for February.
Q. Why do you volunteer?
A. I believe in volunteering and am at a point in my life where I am able to give back to the community.
Q. Would you recommend WSBA emeritus status to other retired lawyers?
A. Yes. Emeritus status can be a great way for retired lawyers to use their legal training and experience for the public good. Under the Admission to Practice Rules, the emeritus lawyer is allowed to practice through a qualified legal services provider, who provides training, supervision and malpractice insurance.
Emeritus status fits well with my retirement lifestyle, giving me the opportunity to do pro bono work and the freedom to do it on my schedule. I especially enjoy not having to keep track of CLE credits, although I do continue to earn credits through Housing Justice Project training.
Q. What originally drew you to the Housing Justice Project?
A. Most of all I liked the fact that the program helps keep people from living on the streets; I thought it would be rewarding to help with such a basic need. I also liked that HJP emphasizes training for both new and experienced volunteers and that a staff attorney is available at the clinic for consultation.
Q. What are the best things about HJP?
A. At HJP, volunteer lawyers have the opportunity to handle their own cases, with ample support from legal assistants and staff. The work includes exposure to interesting cultural issues, as clients come from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds.
There is great satisfaction in working with this segment of people, who are generally under-represented in eviction proceedings. Most of them are not used to having a lawyer pay attention to their needs and they are very appreciative.
Q. Previous career?
A. Criminal prosecution; personal injury defense.
Q. Have you been able to apply skills from your previous legal work to your work at HJP?
A. Although I didn't know anything about housing law at the beginning of my volunteer experience, I have been able to apply skills from my previous work experience to the HJP cases. The HJP training program taught me the substantive law and as I began taking cases of my own, I realized that most of them required the same fundamental legal skills that I had used every working day: client interview, review of case law and statutes, document review, analysis of strength of case, advice to client, formulation of plan, negotiation, and occasionally drafting and arguing motions.
For anyone who thinks, as I used to, that their legal expertise is in the wrong area of law for volunteering, I would encourage them to give it a try.
Cynthia Jones is an attorney with Jones Legal Group, LLC in Seattle. Her practice focuses on litigation and appellate advocacy.