July 2015 Bar Bulletin
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July 2015 Bar Bulletin

Pro Bono Volunteer of the Month

Celeste A. McDonell

By Dana Barnett

 

Celeste A. McDonell began her pro bono work at the King County Bar Association with Volunteer Attorneys for People with HIV/AIDS, which today is part of the general Volunteer Legal Services (VLS) program. The entire Pro Bono Services team proudly recognizes McDonell for her 28 years of dedicated service to low-income clients.

McDonell has worked with more than 25 VLS clients with issues involving wills or other estate planning, and often visits clients suffering from terminal medical conditions in their homes or in the hospital. Her calm demeanor and outstanding legal assistance provide VLS clients with the comfort of knowing their final wishes will be honored. McDonell is always willing to mentor new volunteers and frequently provides assistance to VLS client-intake staff.

KCBA has received numerous words of thanks and praise from McDonell's clients. Her work is best summed up by a recent client who said, "Ms. McDonell treated me as if I was paying thousands of dollars in legal fees. She never made me feel like a charity case, which I deeply appreciated. Ms. McDonell is a five-star attorney."

McDonell is a principal in the Skellenger Bender law firm. She focuses her practice in the areas of family law, guardianships, estate planning and probate.

McDonell recently answered some questions for the Bar Bulletin:

Q. What inspires you to volunteer?

A. I grew up in a family where both my parents were very active volunteers and I started when I was in grade school. But making a difference to someone who otherwise doesn't have access to the legal community is why I continue to volunteer. I have been very fortunate to grow up here in Seattle and work with wonderful people. I consider this my opportunity to give back so others can pay it forward.

Q. Do you have an especially memorable volunteer experience?

A. Many years ago meeting with a very ill gentleman, who resided at Bailey Boushay House, for estate planning. He wanted to be certain that whatever assets remained after his death would be used so that others might also have care at the end of their life. He was so very grateful that he would have a will. Recently another client came in with a 20-year-old will that needed updating. I met with him and he returned about two weeks later. He was expecting to pay for the time and was very surprised that we would not take any payment. He wrote a very kind letter to KCBA.

Q. What was your childhood dream job?

A. Being a lawyer (like my father.)

Q. Words of advice for fellow volunteers?

A. Keep up the great work!

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. I row with my crew team early in the mornings, volunteer for my high school (Holy Names Academy) and parish (St. James Cathedral), and spend time with my wonderful husband Michael and our son Conner.

Q. Favorite quote?

A. "You don't have to have a point to have a point."

Q. Title of the last book you read?

A. The Boys in the Boat - again.

Q. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

A. Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The King County Bar Association sincerely thanks McDonell for her many years of service to Pro Bono Services clients and for her exceptional commitment to the Volunteer Legal Services program.

 

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