May 2013 Bar Bulletin
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May 2013 Bar Bulletin

Volunteer of the Month

Ron Mattson

By Adelaine Clapp


With more than 20 years of service, Ron Mattson is a longtime volunteer with the King County Bar Association's Pro Bono Services programs. Mattson has volunteered with four different volunteer programs and is being honored this month for his work with Self Help Plus.

Mattson has been a continued supporter of the Self Help Plus program and is always willing to assist in reviewing pleadings, to answer any legal questions that may arise, and to review some of the more difficult cases that come through our program.

Self Help Plus Program Manager Tanya Wanchena says, "Ron is dependable and his case reviews are always right-on. I appreciate the time Ron devotes to the SHP program and truly value him as one of my volunteers." Pro Bono Services staff also would like to thank Mattson for his time and commitment to serving low-income individuals in King County.

We asked Mattson some questions about volunteerism and his personal life.

Q: What inspires you to volunteer?

A: There is such a need, and I have the time and ability to help with some of it.

Q: What is your most memorable volunteer experience?

A: That's a tough one. One that comes to mind is a legal clinic client who worked seasonally on a fish processor in Alaska. He had left his car with a friend. The car stalled and the friend parked it. Before he could rescue it, it was impounded and the impound people had sicced a collection outfit on the client for over a thousand bucks in towing and storage. I wrote a "strong letter" to the collection company. The client came into my office a year later to thank me and let me know that he had never heard from them again.

Q: What does the term pro bono mean to you?

A: "For good," just what the Latin words mean (I took three years of Latin in high school). Common usage has shortened it from pro bono publico, which, of course, translates to: for the public good. Beyond that, to me it means doing what you can to help others who are unable to help themselves, whether because they lack funds, knowledge, intelligence, training, or for myriad other reasons.

Q: How will your experience with the Pro Bono Services programs help others?

A: I like to think that every person (client) I meet in these endeavors is left with a more favorable opinion of lawyers in general; that they have learned from the experience; and even if they did not get the result they wanted - at least they were "heard" and very often that alone means more than anything to a lot of the people who need or use Pro Bono Services.

Q: What type of pet do you have?

A: The cutest, prettiest, yellow female Lutino Cockatiel in the world, Charli, who is sitting on my shoulder as I write this. She was also sitting there when I recorded my answering machine message and her chirp can be heard just before the beep!

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

A: I try always to remain as absolutely objective as I can. When possible (often, simply a matter of whether there is time), I consult with others and am mindful of the fact that the feedback from them will only be as valid as my objectivity in presenting the issue.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Others who do more than I to help others. People who persevere even when nature, the odds or other circumstances beyond their control seem to align against them.

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

A: Nah. Being human is cool.

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

A: Get involved in one of these programs. I really think legal clinics are a great way to learn how to think fast, how to interview someone (client), how to "get to the verb" (the quicker you can get to identifying the problem, the more time you will have working on a solution), gain exposure to other fields of law, meet some really great comrades, and get a true sense of satisfaction and earn many heartfelt expressions of gratitude from the people you have helped.

Adelaine Clapp is the program coordinator for the KCBA Pro Bono Services programs.


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