Saturday, January 26, 2008


Last night, I was honored to receive the Washington State Bar Association's Young Lawyers' Division Thomas Neville Pro Bono Award. This award is given annually, to a young lawyer who "has generously committed his or her time and efforts to provide legal services for the public good."

The award presentation took place at our annual Kitsap Bar Association Installation Dinner, on January 25th. The event was a fantastic success -- the food was great, the program entertaining and the speeches shorter than usual. Mine, especially, was short. My friend and colleague, Jennifer Andrews, presented my award, and when she asked me to come forward in front of a room full of roughly 170 people, I left my notes -- a roughly prepared set of remarks and thank-yous -- on my table. As I looked out over that sea of very supportive, happy colleagues and friends, I just about panicked. Yes, us lawyers get used to performing under pressure. We get used to speaking in public. But even in the most packed courtroom, you're having a conversation with an opposing counsel and the judge, in most circumstances -- it's not usually you, all by yourself, in front of a microphone, with 340 eyes looking at you expectantly.

I did my best to stammer out my thanks despite my jitters, but since I'm more a creature of the written word than the spoken one, I wanted to make a few more thanks here.

This award is a great honor. For it, I have to thank a number of folks. Each of the people involved with my nomination, including my friends Olivia Dennis, Lynn Fleischbein and Jennifer Brugger, and the rest of the staff and board members of Kitsap Legal Services are as deserving -- if not more deserving -- of this type of recognition. Olivia, Lynn and Jennifer have worked for years with KLS and in the area of pro bono legal aid. I am thankful, and lucky, to have worked with them all over the last few years. My contributions, I think, are a drop in the bucket compared to what Olivia, Lori Denton, and the loyal band of volunteer attorneys have done over their years of service in the area of legal aid.

As I mentioned last night -- I quite simply would not have been there without KLS. I started volunteering with KLS when I was still working in Seattle, and enjoyed my time as a volunteer attorney right from the get go. I started out shadowing Lynn Fleischbein, by day managing partner of Liebert Morgan & Fleischbein in Silverdale, who seemed to know absolutely everything. I was amazed at the questions she could answer with confidence from her various clinic clients; for several clinics, I shadowed Lynn and didn't know how on earth I would ever handle clients of my own. After awhile, I was thrown into the deep end, working with self-serve dissolution clients who needed paperwork review. Since then, I still do self-serve dissolution assistance, and also am now equipped to help some of the more complicated clinic clients. Clinics are a collaborative effort -- the volunteer attorneys work together on clinic nights to answer each others' questions (because, other than Lynn, we don't all know it all) -- not to mention, if we work efficiently we get through the work a little bit faster and can get home to our families and furry children (meaning, cats and dogs) a little bit earlier. Clinic nights can be late nights, but they're always worth the time, and it is satisfying to be able to help clients through whichever legal issue they're facing. With Olivia's retirement, we're welcoming Alisha Freeman to the role of Executive Director, and the Board is excited about Alisha's energy and commitment to KLS. The next few years will truly be an adventure.

The friends I have made through my involvement with KLS, including the KLS staff -- past and present -- the KLS Board, and KLS volunteer attorneys, were a huge part of my decision to make Kitsap and the Westsound the home for my practice. Even on a good day, this is not an easy way to make a living. On the not-so-good days, having such fantastic friends and colleagues helps make the work seem a little bit more achievable.

Since this is getting long-winded, I'll try to wrap it up. I appreciate this honor so much, and I also appreciate the warm reception and support I received last night from my colleagues -- folks I have worked with for some time, and folks I hadn't previously met. I am always a proud member of the Kitsap Bar, but last night was a rare mix of pride, and the feeling that my colleagues were proud of me. That is a treasure, and I appreciate the Young Lawyers Division's role in allowing me that privilege.

tags: where?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Can you help support Kitsap Legal Services?

As you may know, I am on the Board of Kitsap Legal Services, a local non-profit that serves low-income residents of Kitsap County who are in need of legal assistance in civil matters. In plain English, there is a huge population of people in our community who need help with basic "life" issues -- child custody, marriage and divorce, housing -- and who can't afford an attorney. Heck, a lot of people who aren't low-income feel that they can't afford an attorney when they need one -- but that's a different blog post.

KLS operates based on volunteered time from pro bono attorneys (like me and many others) and community support. Our biggest annual fundraiser is coming up this Friday, January 25th. If you would like to help support KLS, please contact me about donating an item for our fundraising auction, or, making a cash donation in lieu of an item. KLS is a 501(c)(3) so your contributions are tax-deductable, and they go to a really fantastic cause.

Thank you for your support.

tags: where?

Friday, January 18, 2008

How to spend an evening, thanks to Port Townsend High School Mock Trial

Last night, I had one of the most exciting, entertaining evenings I’ve had in a long time. That may be a sorry statement about the level of adventure my evenings typically entail, but I stand by my words. Along with most of the rest of the Jefferson County Bar Association, I spent the evening evaluating a mock trial scrimmage by two teams: Port Townsend High School, my alma mater; and a Wenatchee school. First, I was shocked at the turnout... we had three courtrooms going, and in my courtroom we had eight “jurors” including one amused wife who had been told by her dear husband that they were “going to see a play” that evening. The rest of the jurors were local attorneys. I didn’t do a headcount, but I presume the rest of the courtrooms were equally staffed by local attorneys and members of the bench, based on how crowded the courtroom was with attorneys and judges prior to the start of the scrimmage.

The evening was absolutely fantastic fun. These students did an impressive job -- it’s early in the mock trial season, and they largely had mastered the facts that they need to memorize in order to move to the next step of working through their case “off book.” More than one of the attorney-jurors commented that we wouldn’t want to bump into any of these students as opposing counsel. There was, truly, a tremendous amount of potential in the room on both of the teams. I told my husband during my drive home that I wouldn’t commit to help with all of the scrimmages, but I will definitely make time to do this a few times a year. Aside from being able to help out the mock trial teams, this was a fantastic experience for me as a younger lawyer. I was surprised at how much I’ve learned since my own mock trial days over a decade ago; startled by how much sharper and better-tuned my reflexes felt as I listened to questioning and testimony and my own “objection” reflex kicked in a number of times. Plus, as an attorney, I now know that the jury seats in Jefferson County Superior Court are supremely uncomfortable -- a fact I will definitely remember if I have a jury trial in that courtroom.

In addition to the team students and coaches, it was a huge treat to meet a few more of my Jefferson County colleagues. I have a handful of dear friends in practice in Jefferson, but otherwise most of my practice in Jefferson County historically has been in domestic court so I’ve met only a few of the local attorneys. It was a delight to get a chance to meet a large part of the rest of the Jefferson bar in one congenial, festive evening. If you’re an attorney in practice, give some serious thought to making a date with your local mock trial team -- you will find the time well spent and rewarding.

tags: where?


I've been blogging over at my iWeb blog since starting my practice last September, but am toying with the idea of moving my blog back here to Blogger. So, here's a little experiment. There is an RSS feed over there to the right, linking to my iWeb blog, so feel free to catch up on what's been going on with me since September by visiting that site. If I phase that one out, I'll move the content over, but I'm not decided just yet.

So - thanks for finding me, and let me know if you have any feedback either way on the iWeb blog vs. the Blogger blog!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

First entry in my new little green note book

When I started practice with Olsen & McFadden a little over a year ago, it became clear that much of my time was going to be spent working with clients in crisis. A large portion of my practice has consisted of divorce work and other family conflict, and after just a few months I could see that I needed to find ways to celebrate the little victories rather than get too caught up in all of the negative. So, I stopped off at a stationary store and picked up a beautiful little journal with a green fabric cover. This became my "little green note book," in which notes on the "good things" in my practice have been captured. That way, on the days that aren't as pleasant, I have a list of "good things" to look back on, and remember why it is that I do the work I do. In the practice of law, there's not a lot of opportunity to celebrate or congratulate. There is always (mostly) too much to do, to dwell on any one success, but somehow that same rule doesn't seem to apply to our failures. My little green book has been a reminder that the work is worth it, that people do need my help, and that the successes are worth the work.

It is only fitting, then, that today goes down in this new, online little note book. Today is the day that the Secretary of State confirmed the creation of First Ascent Law PS, my new solo practice. I am in the planning and transition stages, and have yet to formally announce the change, but I don't want to wait until things are official to start writing down the good things that go along with this. For those of you who have been so incredibly supportive and generous with your contributions to my career and this new venture, thank you so much. Please stay tuned for more news, and for many more entries in this little green book.