March 2012 Bar Bulletin
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March 2012 Bar Bulletin

Volunteer of the Month

Sheila O'Sullivan

By Cynthia B. Jones


KCBA shines its spotlight on Sheila O'Sullivan as KCBA's March Volunteer of the Month.

During a recent Q&A, O'Sullivan shared a few of her likes and dislikes, confessing that "Body Heat" is her favorite law-related movie, but she would not say which U.S. Supreme Court justice she favors, only that it is "not Clarence Thomas."

O'Sullivan has been volunteering with KCBA's Volunteer Legal Services Program since 2005, according to Connie J. Ritchie, the VLS program manager.

"Sheila has taken some very difficult, time-consuming cases from VLS," Ritchie said, "[and] if that isn't enough, while working on a lengthy, difficult pro bono case this past year, she has also been willing to take on another pro bono case at the same time."

O'Sullivan also has a full personal life that includes a "gourmet chef" husband. Read on to learn more about this dedicated volunteer.

Q. What did you dream you would do for work when you were little?

A. Our neighbor was a lawyer, so throughout childhood it was always a pipe dream. After high school, it seemed impossible to actually be able to accomplish that level of education much less afford it. But, as with everything else in life, if you work for it, it happens.

Q. What is your favorite food?

A. No such thing as a favorite when you have a gourmet chef for a husband!

Q. What do the pro bono legal clinics mean to you?

A. An opportunity to help those in our community and make our community better. We really forget how complicated the law is to lay people after practicing for a while. There are so many people really befuddled by issues we take for granted every day as being easy. It's nice to be able to simplify and explain the law for them.

Q. How will your experience with the pro bono clinics help others?

A. I tell many young lawyers how rewarding it can be and how much they can learn in the process. Hopefully they will participate.

Q. What type of pets do you have?

A. Roddy & Abbey … cats, of course.

Q. How do you gain perspective regarding a difficult situation?

A. Review it with my peers.

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. Training and fundraising with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training for century rides (Italy this year!), gourmet foods and pretending to play the violin.

Q. What is your favorite quote?

A. "I picked a bad week to quit sniffing glue."

Q. Name one thing you would like to do over?

A. Nothing! Never look back when life keeps getting better.

Q. What is your favorite song?

A. I'm a product of the '80s, so Bon Jovi will usually do the trick.

Q. If you were a superhero, which superhero would you be and why?

A. Not Wonder Woman; the costume just doesn't work for me.

Q. If you could change anything about the Neighborhood Legal Clinics what would it be?

A. I think they are well run; it would be wonderful if there were so many volunteers, they would occur every night!

Q. How often do you volunteer?

A. About once a month.

Q. What's your favorite area of law?

A. Bankruptcy.

Q. What was your favorite class in law school?

A. Tax.

Q. What keeps you motivated to volunteer?

A. Being able to solve so many problems for so many people I would not see in my practice.

Q. What is the last book you read?

A. David Guterson, The Other.

Q. What do you love most about being a lawyer?

A. Saving people's financial lives.

Q. What originally drew you to the VLS Program?

A. Originally, it was a sense of obligation for my profession which has morphed over the years into an acute awareness of the very real unmet need for free and low-cost legal services.

Q. Do you have any words of advice for fellow volunteers, especially those among us who are relatively new?

A. Don't stop! I frequently get overwhelmed by my workload and vow to quit volunteering so I can focus more on my practice and personal life. However, every time I drag myself down to the clinic, I am handsomely rewarded with great appreciation and thanks, which renews my determination to help those less fortunate.

Cynthia Jones is an attorney with Jones Legal Group, LLC in Seattle. Her practice focus is appellate advocacy.


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