By Mary S.W. Sakaguchi
I started practicing in California in 2002, during which time my practice was exclusively family law. I was licensed in Washington in 2006 and expanded my practice to include real estate, business and estate planning/probate, with the majority of my practice remaining in family law. I am currently a partner in a Bellevue firm, Sakaguchi & Reese.
Since my beginning as an attorney, I have been fortunate to have worked for firms who valued community involvement and encouraged professional development. It was a no-brainer at my prior firm (then Davidson, Czeisler, & Kilpatric, now Davidson, Kilpatric & Krislock, a small, established firm in Kirkland) that I would be a member of KCBA — the firm paid for my membership dues. The partners of the firm were themselves actively involved in KCBA as former trustees and committee members.
I became increasingly involved in developing collaborative law as part of my family law practice. Collaborative law was a relatively new dispute resolution process, and I had received training in collaborative law in California before I moved to Washington. At that time, collaborative law was practiced solely as a contractually based process via a participation agreement signed by the parties and their attorneys.
In 2009, I became involved in the growing collaborative law community in King County through participation in KCBA’s Collaborative Law Section. In 2010, I co-chaired the section with Jamie Clausen and over that year we successfully tripled the section’s membership. This was due in part to KCBA webcasting the section meetings, which increased access to the meetings to our members. It was also around that time I was recruited to serve on KCBA’s Membership Committee.
I had left my prior firm to start my own solo practice in 2011, and it quickly became clear to me that solo and small firms dominated the legal community on the eastside and that we needed better support and resources. I focused my energy on KCBA’s Membership Committee to work on delivering those resources to small/solo firms and other practitioners on the eastside.
Also around this time, I became heavily involved in the efforts to enact the Uniform Collaborative Law Act in Washington that was drafted by the Uniform Law Commission in 2010. KCBA’s Collaborative Law Section provided access to the collaborative community in furthering those efforts. In 2013, I got to witness the UCLA signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, with its final resting place in RCW ch. 7.77.
Collectively over this time, I came to appreciate KCBA as a nimble vehicle for social and legal change. I saw KCBA as an organization with real and credible presence in Washington’s legal and political communities, and knew that this was where I wanted to focus my time and energy as I developed my professional career and practice.
In 2013, I was nominated to run for the KCBA Board of Trustees for an open eastside position. I ran against the incomparable Marc Silverman and, appropriately, lost to him. Having lost to Marc, I had high hopes of bending his ear to push my agenda to advocate for our members, especially our eastside practitioners, in his new role as trustee, but I was asked to serve shortly thereafter to finish the term of the now-Honorable Susan Amini after she was appointed to the Superior Court bench. The following year I was elected to a full term as trustee and 2016–2017 will be my final year on the Board.
I am proud to be a KCBA member because of the reciprocal relationship I have enjoyed with the organization over the years. I have quietly spent the last several years working on KCBA’s Membership Committee to further engage attorneys and bring value to our members throughout the county. In the last two years I have worked on KCBA’s Diversity Committee to increase diversity and bring more change to our community.
In turn, on a personal level, I have had opportunities to interact with judges, policy makers and leaders in our community. I have had access to resources and support that have been crucial to my professional development. As a professional, I get to boast membership in an organization that invests in pro bono programs and prioritizes community involvement like no other voluntary bar association in our nation.
As I slowly mature my way into becoming a seasoned practitioner, my advice to fellow attorneys, new and seasoned, is to become involved in KCBA — be a part of change, have a hand in the support and resources you need for your practice, and you will find yourself getting much more in return for your involvement!
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