Kelli Gano wasted no time in getting started in pro bono work. She passed the bar in September 2014 and took a pro bono case through KCBA's Family Law Mentor Program the next month.
Gano thought that this would be a good opportunity to use her newly minted skills to help clients with their family law matters, gain experience and help out an individual in need. Taking that case turned out to be a rewarding learning experience for Gano and an incredible blessing to the domestic-violence survivor she represented in a dissolution matter.
Gano completed the case in July and won much-deserved praise from her grateful client. The client noted that Gano was "wonderful, excellent" and that she went "beyond expectations - like family."
Gano notes that this was a complex case, with multiple issues and involving a language barrier. "But it ended up being the most rewarding experience of my career so far," she says, "and I cannot express how happy I am that I was able to help my client achieve a result that benefited herself and her children."
We caught up with her recently and asked her a few questions:
Q. What does pro bono mean to you?
A. I think that it's about recognizing the power to help others that we have as members of the legal profession, and using that power to make a difference in whatever way we are able.
Q. What is the biggest challenge with helping the clients in the Family Law Mentor Program?
A. For my particular case, definitely the language and cultural barrier. I developed a real appreciation for how daunting the legal system is when seen through the eyes of a client who did not speak the language of the court and had no frame of reference for the American legal system.
Q. What inspires you to volunteer?
A. I like to help people; it's why I went to law school and became a lawyer in the first place. I know that having a legal problem can be scary and stressful for the average person, especially if they lack the means to pay for a lawyer to help them with the process. I enjoy volunteering because it allows me to use my legal knowledge to help those who otherwise would be without legal assistance at a difficult time in their lives.
Q. Favorite class in law school?
A. The Innocence Project Northwest Clinic. I strongly recommend participating in a clinic during law school, if only for the reminder that our profession involves more than exams and textbooks.
Q. Words of advice for fellow volunteers?
A. The most important words in a lawyer's vocabulary are "I don't know." Never be afraid to admit that you aren't sure of the answer to a question and that more research is required.
Q. Favorite pet?
A. My cat, Billie Jean. And yes, she is named after the Michael Jackson song.
Q. Favorite quote?
A. "Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone."
The King County Bar Association thanks Kelli Gano for her outstanding work with the Family Law Mentor Program.