By Cynthia B. Jones
This month the spotlight is on Colleen James, Volunteer of the Month for KCBA's Kinship Care Solutions Project. Judy Lin, who runs the Kinship Care program for the KCBA, told us that James has volunteered there since December 2008. James is working on her second case through the program and also volunteered with the Family Law Mentor program where she handled a family law dissolution case.
"I've chosen Colleen because without hesitation she agreed to help a client who needed emergency orders pending their non-parental custody petition," said Lin. "Colleen quickly jumped on board and filed the necessary pleadings on behalf of the client and went to court to argue the need for an emergency restraining order and got it."
Lin added that James has since diligently worked on that case to secure the most stable and safe outcome for the child.
James took a timeout from her busy schedule for a one-on-one to answer a few questions that reveal a more personal side of this valued volunteer attorney:
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I like to cook and I like to be active, which works out well because activities increase my appetite. When I am not working, I'm usually trying a new recipe, running or doing Pilates.
Q. What is your favorite quote?
A. "Nothing endures but personal qualities" — Walt Whitman.
Q. What is your best skill?
A. Listening with understanding.
Q. How often do you volunteer?
A. Currently I volunteer every month with Make Change, every six to eight weeks in the legal clinic, and have one active pro bono case through Kinship Care.
Q. Must-have office supply?
A. I couldn't function without my ScanSnap.
Q. What was your favorite class in law school?
A. The administrative law clinic and mediation law clinic: I really enjoyed being able to presently apply what I was learning.
Q. What keeps you motivated to volunteer?
A. That's easy: the sincere gratitude of clients and knowing that they would have difficulty getting legal help elsewhere.
Q. If you were not a lawyer, what profession would you choose and why?
A. My undergraduate degree is in psychology, so I would probably choose to be a counselor and mediator. I like helping others resolve disputes and difficulties, whether law related or simply life related.
Q. What originally drew you to volunteer for KCBA?
A. I volunteer for KCBA's Eastside Legal Clinic, Make Change debt class, and Kinship Care Solutions. Volunteering has always been important to me and KCBA offers a nice mix. With the legal clinic Make Change, I get to help people feel immediately more confident about their situation. With Kinship Care, you are working with the same client for about a year, so I have the opportunity to try and make a really challenging part of their life go a little smoother.
Q. Do you have any words of advice for fellow volunteers, especially those among us who are relatively new?
A. Ask lots of questions and remember that the first step is letting the client tell their story and making sure they really feel heard.
Cynthia B. Jones is an attorney with Jones Legal Group, LLC in Seattle. Her practice focuses on litigation and appellate advocacy.