December 2013 Bar Bulletin
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It's a Wonderful Life: Making a Difference with Pro Bono


Imagine that every day when you left the office you had only been able to help 15 percent of your clients. You put in a full day and then some, yet another 85 percent of your clients were left to fend for themselves without any legal assistance.

You're disappointed, frustrated, demoralized and tired. As you walk home on the streets of Bedford Falls, the snow falling, you look in the window of Old Man Potter's bank and wonder whether you're really making a difference at all with your practice. Standing at a high bridge over a fast flowing river below, you start to think everyone would be better off if you had never been born. Then suddenly your guardian angel Clarence appears and ...

Whoops, sorry, it's December and sometimes I can't escape daydreams of my favorite Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," which I'll likely watch at least two or three times this month. But just as Jimmy Stewart had a little light shown on the difference he was making in people's lives, I think that King County Bar Association members could use a few words in this column to remind all of us about the great work done in the name of KCBA to assist the most vulnerable residents of King County with their civil legal aid needs.

Specifically, I want to share a couple stories about some of our outstanding pro bono volunteers who were honored at our annual recognition event on October 29 (see page 27 for a recap of this event).

Doug Anderson began volunteering with us in 1992 and has handled almost 200 pro bono cases - an average of nine pro bono cases per year for 21 years. Doug handles a variety of legal issues for pro bono clients including wills and estate planning, debt defense, bankruptcy, foreclosure, tax debt, and other consumer law issues. A seriously ill client, who needed help with a will and bankruptcy, was surprised when Doug agreed to meet at her home. "He handled everything immediately and with great concern and care," she said. "He was very professional and went out of his way to help."

Liz Lindsley began volunteering at Housing Justice Project in March and has greatly influenced the lives of many HJP clients. In addition to devoting more than 100 hours in the clinic during her first six months, she has taken two cases for ongoing representation. It is often difficult to find pro bono counsel for tenants when their eviction proceedings are set on an expedited trial schedule. However, despite being a new attorney, Liz took a case to trial for a family living in deplorable conditions with a newborn baby. Liz worked tirelessly to prepare the case, and the court decided in the clients' favor, awarding the tenants more than $3,800 in damages.

These are just two of the volunteers we recently recognized. And as inspiring as their service is, they are just two attorneys. Did you know that we have more than 1,300 volunteers in our pro bono programs? Each has stories like these. Multiply the effect of these two attorneys by 650 times and you'll get a sense of how much of a difference the King County Bar is making in the lives of the indigent in our community each year - the lives of some 10,000 of our neighbors, co-workers, friends and families.

Yes, it can become quickly overwhelming to focus on the large number of people in King County who still face their legal issues without benefit of an attorney's counsel. And please know the bar is working hard on statewide efforts to improve access to justice, increase support services for pro se parties, and assist in many more long-term initiatives to address the unmet legal needs of our region.

But in the meantime, I am genuinely inspired by the incredibly dedicated and selfless good work of the 1,300 volunteer legal professionals (and our awesome Pro Bono Services staff at the bar) who serve so many each year.

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