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.

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