June 2015 Featured Volunteer: Megan Martinez and Katherine Raunikar
LASO welcomes Stillwater Law Office summer volunteers! Megan Martinez and Katherine Raunikar are laying the foundation for their own future through volunteer work. They each have a dream of attending law school following graduation from Oklahoma State University. To gain exposure into the field of law, Megan and Katherine decided to volunteer at LASO’s Stillwater Law Office. Continue Reading...
May 2015 Featured Volunteer: Shar Grant, Jennifer Ferguson, Lacey Shirley, Erik Anderson & Curtis Little Sun
This month LASO is pleased to highlight Tulsa intern, Shar Grant, 2L; and students from the Americorps JD Summer team: Jennifer Ferguson, 1L; Lacey Shirley, 2L; Erik Anderson, 2L and Curtis Little Sun, 3L. The internship program allows Shar, Jennifer, Lacey, Erik and Curtis to gain practical work experience while affording them the opportunity to serve their community. Public interest work is an essential part of these students legal education and is an important component of their future legal careers. Each student will receive exposure and assist attorneys in multiple areas of civil law. Continue Reading...
April 2015 Featured Volunteer: Dwight L. Smith
Dwight Smith has worked diligently on Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma fundraising efforts for more than a decade. The reason our spotlight shines on Dwight this month is because of his continued work for LASO.
In 2006 he was asked and agreed to serve on LASO’s Annual Fund Drive team for several years. Dwight says it was in that position, he learned a great deal about Legal Aid and its mission, and developed a tremendous admiration for its attorneys and what they accomplish with such limited resources.
“I decided I wanted to do more to support their efforts,” said Dwight. Continue Reading...
February 2015 Featured Volunteer: Mark Gutel
Mark Gutel signed up to participate in Legal Aid’s pro bono program the same day he was sworn in as a new bar member at the State Capitol. As a recent law graduate, he knew he would gain relevant family law experience volunteering at the OK County Pro Se Waiver Divorce Clinic.
A native of Oklahoma City and Norman, Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 2011. “Volunteering at the clinic is my chance to give back to the people in my community,” Mark said, “as well as help out the domestic judges of Oklahoma County.” Continue Reading...
January 2015 Featured Volunteer: LiveHelp Volunteers
LASO's spotlight shines on our LiveHelp volunteers. University of Tulsa College of Law students: TU 1L - Lacey Shirley; Cameron Platt; Austin Ervin; Austin Keathly; Susan Cunningham; Kris McVay: Caroline Guerra and not pictured Kelsey Duvall. TU 3L - Yu Cai; Helen Sglarta; not pictured OU 3L Ellen Bone. Attorney Rochette Wurth also volunteers.
What is LiveHelp? It is a feature that helps bridge the access to justice gap for low to moderate income individuals and seniors. Continue Reading...
December 2014 Featured Volunteer: A thanks to All
We’ve had a great year at Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. During 2014 volunteers have invested in justice through pro bono work with low-income individuals and seniors.
Why do they? There are many positive outcomes as a result of pro bono assistance, but the most important has been the feeling created by the thanks they receive from the clients our volunteer attorneys have served. Continue Reading...
November 2014 Featured Volunteer: Campaign for Justice Teams
Campaign for Justice is an annual fundraiser event which supports the work of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) to provide access to justice for low-income and elderly Oklahomans in all 77 counties.
Our OKC and Tulsa team members solicit contributions from attorneys and law firms, making it possible for LASO to represent Oklahomans who otherwise would have no recourse in response to their legal issues such as domestic violence, fraudulent landlords, unfair housing conditions, scammers and administrative errors that stop individuals’ basic services.
The benefits are a wise investment for our communities and the future of our state. Continue...
October 2014 Featured Volunteer: Jamie Kee
Our spotlight shines on attorney Jamie Kee who spearheaded a fundraiser event with his daughter and son-in-law on the Kee Ranch just outside of Woodward, OK in September.
What was the exciting event? The first annual Running Wild Adventure Race organized by a group of attorneys and community leaders who hosted runners of all ages for a worthwhile cause; to raise awareness and funds for Woodward County Legal Aid.
Monies raised are earmarked to hire another family law attorney for the Woodward LASO office which serves 15 northwest Oklahoma counties. Continue...
September 2014 Featured Volunteer: Kaleb Boese
Volunteering with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) is an opportunity to play a small role in providing valuable services to many in the Tulsa area for Kaleb Boese, a third year law student at the University of Tulsa.
Kaleb assisted LASO Bankruptcy attorneys during his summer internship in the Tulsa Law Office. Debtor/Creditor rights is one area of law that interests him. He says volunteering at Legal aid has given him the opportunity to see yet a different side of the debtor/creditor relationship.
Kaleb was given previous exposure to this specialized area of law from two distinct and valuable experiences when he externed under Bankruptcy Judge Terrance Michael and then interned for Chapter 13 Trustee Lonnie Eck. Continue Reading...
August 2014 Featured Volunteers: John Curtis, Ethan Sneed and William Hay
This month LASO highlights interns from their Norman Law Office; John Curtis III, Ethan Sneed and William (Billy) Hay. These second year law students from the University of Oklahoma College of Law worked alongside attorneys at the LASO Disaster Relief Unit to help survivors of the May and June 2013 storms get their lives back in order.
The internship provided opportunities for these students to develop practical legal skills. Time spent in the courtroom attending damages hearings, small claims proceedings, and hearings on various motions led to chances to observe adjudication, discuss issues with judges, schedule hearings with bailiffs, and file documents with the court clerk. Continue Reading...
July 2014 Featured Volunteers: LASO OKC Law Students
LASO is pleased to give recognition to a talented group of law students from The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University: Lars Anderson; Angel McPherson; Telana McCullough; Dalton Rudd; Daniel Resendez; Bo DeBose; Lisa Torneten; and Jordon Soto. Their summer fellowship with LASO is part of a public service initiative program sponsored by the universities.
"Public service work is an important part of legal education and a key component of one’s legal career," says Cindy Goble, OKC Managing Attorney. The program allows law students to gain practical work experience while providing them the opportunity to serve their community. Continue Reading...
June 2014 Featured Volunteer: Rafe Hall
Attorney Rafe Hall joined LASO’s pro bono panel in Altus more than a decade ago. Since then, Rafe has focused on interacting with other local attorneys to help promote pro bono activities. He is always ready to help when there is a need with a case.
Rafe was raised on a farm in Greer County attending school in Duke, OK. He graduated from Western Oklahoma State College and Oklahoma State University. He then earned a Juris Doctorate at Oklahoma City University College of Law. After law school he accepted the position of prosecutor with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office.
Rafe moved back to SW Oklahoma to be near his family in 1997 to establish a law practice which he continues to operate. Continue Reading
May 2014 Featured Volunteer: Norma Eagleton
This month’s featured volunteer brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Legal Aid Services. Following a notable career of “the first woman to” positions, Norma Eagleton has chosen to share her expertise in family law with couples going through divorce.
She has conducted numerous mediations at no charge when one of LASO’s clients is a party. Usually the cases settle - if not, the parties go away with wise counsel to work together after divorce for the best interest of the children.
Norma is a native Oklahoman born in Wewoka. She has been noted for her many achievements in the state. In 1976 she was the first woman to serve on the Tulsa City Commission. In 1979 she was the first women appointed by Governor George Nigh to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, a position she held for ten years. Continue Reading
April 2014 Featured Volunteer: Wambli Sina Win
Wambli Win is the Director of the new Rennard Strickland School of Tribal Law & Criminal Justice at Bacone College.
Born and raised in South Dakota, Wambli describes herself as an Oklahoma “transplant” who loves Oklahoma. She is an OU College of Law graduate with her daughter soon to follow; who is in her first year of law school at OU.
In 2012 Wambli began pro bono work with the Muskogee Legal Aid Law Office by helping assist divorce and paternity clients at the Muskogee County Pro Se Clinic. Continue Reading
March 2014 Featured Volunteer: Heather Cline
New attorneys and law students at the Oklahoma City Law Office describe Heather Cline as an amazing mentor. Her support and her valuable free advice to Legal Aid's young attorneys does not go unnoticed by LASO staff.
Heather is known for her work with victims of domestic violence. In her practice Heather focuses on domestic law, litigation, and advocating for domestic violence victims, survivors and their children.
In 1992, Heather and her husband co-founded Cline Law Office where they continue in private practice today. She graduated with a Juris Doctorate from Oklahoma City University School of Law, and prior to attending law school, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri - Columbia. Continue Reading...
February 2014 Featured Volunteer: Northeast Technology Center Students
Students at the Northeast Technology Center in Claremore are helping Legal Aid by creating a series of videos about the garnishment process.
Each video is a very short animation explaining an aspect of the garnishment process.
Mitchell McCollough, Rhett Chanley, Colby Madden, and Zach Wolfe (pictured left to right) are participants of the EAST project, a specific educational program for students interested in pursuing web development, advertising, video game production, animation, GIS mapping, and photography-related careers. Continue reading ...
January 2014 Featured Volunteer: Mary Martinovich
Mary Martinovich volunteers in the Tulsa community to help fill a need. She holds a Chemical Engineering degree from Notre Dame University and worked 6 years for Philips Petroleum in Bartlesville before leaving her job to raise a family.
After her children were grown, Mary returned to school to obtain a paralegal degree at Tulsa Community College.
A friend of Mary's encouraged her to help at the Tulsa Courthouse Assistance Project (CAP). Mary agreed and attended Legal Aid Services CAP training provided free to all volunteer attorneys and paralegals. Continue Reading...
December 2013 Featured Volunteer: 2013 Campaign for Justice Fundraising Teams
During the May 2013 Campaign for Justice kick-off celebration, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt reminded supporters of the responsibility we all share in making equal access to justice for Oklahomans a priority. He noted the benefits to be a wise investment in our communities and the future of our state.
Campaign for Justice is an annual fundraiser event which supports the work of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma to give free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and their families and to senior citizens of our state. Continue Reading...
October 2013 Featured Volunteer: OKC's OBA Day of Service Volunteers
OBA President Jim Stuart announced that his theme for 2013 would be "Oklahoma lawyers giving back", and then soon after, September 20th-21st was declared as the OBA Day of Service. With the help of the OBA Young Lawyers Division; county bar leaders and legal organizations planned projects that would give back to local communities all over the state.
In honor of the OBA Day of Service the Oklahoma City Law Office partnered with the Oklahoma County Bar Association to offer a legal advice clinic at the Epworth United Methodist Church from 9am to noon on Saturday, September 21st. Continue Reading...
September 2013 Featured Volunteer: Christopher Scott
Chris Scott, a second year J.D. Candidate, generously gave his time and talent to the underserved as a summer intern in the Tulsa Law Office. The internship position allows law students to gain relevant work experience while also giving back to their community.
Chris's desire to intern with Legal Aid Services was fueled by his passion for non-profit work. He says it offers many opportunities to make an impact.
A native Tulsan, Chris is a graduate of Cascia Hall High School. He practiced with Tulsa attorneys in the area of Non-Family Law involving public benefits and housing issues, which included staffing the FED docket and helping to represent clients in landlord/tenant and foreclosure matters. Continue Reading...
July 2013 Featured Volunteer: Todd Arnold
As a young boy growing up in a small town outside of Dallas, TX, Todd Arnold knew that a legal career was something he wanted to pursue. He felt a calling to do all that he could to provide actual help to individuals in need.
In pursuit of his vision to serve the needy upon graduation from Kaufman High School, Todd received a Political Science degree from the University of Oklahoma. He then earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law in May of 2013.
But prior to graduation, Todd interned with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) for ten months in the Tulsa Law Office. Todd was placed with staff attorneys who specialize in bankruptcy law. Continue Reading...
June 2013 Featured Volunteer: LASO Law Student Interns
LASO welcomes Oklahoma City Law Office 2013 summer interns!!
Legal Aid staff members and interns from the Oklahoma City Law office joined together at the Red Rooftop event to raise money for the AIDS walk.
The 12 law students will be assisting LASO attorneys in many areas including Family Law, Pro Se Docket, Hispanic Outreach, Homeless Project, Senior Division, Legal Resource Project, and SSI. Continue Reading...
May 2013 Featured Volunteer: Ruth Marie Wyatt
Ruth Marie Wyatt is a superwoman.
In 1986, Ruth received a card in the mail about Legal Aid Services. She had retired from teaching and needed something to do. Her husband encouraged her to volunteer at Legal Aid.
Ruth's compassion to serve others led to a 27 year journey of volunteer work at the Stillwater Law Office. "After I retired, I wanted to get out of the house and associate with other people," said Ruth. Continue Reading...
April 2013 Featured Volunteer: Gisele Perryman
This month's pro bono attorney is well known to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO), having been a volunteer legal assistant for the Farmworker Law Project 1991 to 1993 and then serving six years as LASO's entitlements/benefits attorney. Currently, Gisele Perryman's private practice focuses on social security disability, immigration, criminal misdemeanor defense and mediation. Continue Reading...
March 2013 Featured Volunteer: Daniel Ede
Lawyers at the Tulsa Law Office of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO), a provider of free legal services to low-income and seniors, refer to Daniel Ede as a committed, dedicated and tireless pro bono volunteer.
For two decades, Ede has donated hundreds of hours of pro bono legal assistance to clients in the Tulsa area as well as six surrounding counties through his work with LASO. "Daniel has been very active for years, handling at least one family law case at all times." stated Karen Langdon, Pro Bono Coordinator, "but this winter, because the need was so great, he agreed to take on seven cases at once." Continue Reading...
February 2013 Featured Volunteer: Campaign for Justice 2012 Fundraiser Teams
An outstanding effort by the Oklahoma City and Tulsa fundraising team members will lead to a higher number of low-income and elderly Oklahomans receiving Legal Aid's help in 2013.
The 2012 Campaign for Justice was a tremendous success! A near record-breaking campaign raised $828,107, exceeding the goal by more than $78,000.
Campaign for Justice is an annual fundraiser event which supports the work of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma to give free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and their families and to senior citizens of our state.
Congratulations to Statewide Honorary Co-chairs Governor Mary Fallin and First Gentleman, D. Wade Christensen; and Tulsa Team Chair Judge Morris, for leading the fundraising teams to success during the 12 month campaign.
Thank you to all OKC and Tulsa team members who gave of their time to help advance the mission of Legal Aid Services. It could not have been accomplished without the support of the entire team.
On staff with the Tulsa GableGotwals Law Firm, Cesar Tavares handles litigation matters mostly involving business deals. He tries cases pertaining to Contract disputes, Uniform Commercial Code, Antitrust Law, Oil and Gas, Trade Secrets, Veil Piercing, Non-competes, and Fraudulent Transfers, to name a few.
Recently, Cesar agreed to defend Legal Aid client Eric Widger with a roofing case when the roofing company walked off the job then sued Mr. Widger, who is disabled, and his wife for $20,000. After nearly a year, the entire case was settled, the clients' roof repaired and their credit restored to good standing.
In addition to assisting Legal Aid with volunteer cases, Cesar does quite a bit of pro bono immigration work with The University of Tulsa College of Law legal clinic.
We ask Cesar, a graduate of Harvard Law School, why he decided to become a lawyer and if he would recommend pro bono work to other attorneys. Here is what he shared with us:
Why did you to choose law as your career?
"I was serving as a missionary for my church working with the Latino community in San Francisco. There was a particular individual whose wife and children had been accosted by a group that was supposed to be helping them come across the border. He was terrified and was desperately looking for the additional money they wanted to deliver his family to him safely. I didn't know how to help."
"I had been praying to know what I should do with my life after my mission and, when I thought about who best could help people who find themselves in such a difficult situation, I felt that such a challenge could be tackled by an attorney. I also felt very strongly that that was what I was supposed to do after my mission and felt impressed a law career would fit my talents."
Given that you have now handled several pro bono cases with Legal Aid, would you tell other attorneys they should get involved in working with low-income individuals?
"It is extremely rewarding work because it makes a large impact on an individual that you'll get to know. You get to see how your legal efforts impact a person's life."
"The cases I've enjoyed most, both pro-bono and not, are the cases where I have gotten to know the people involved and where the dispute is of real personal importance. That seems to always be the case with Legal Aid clients."
"For young associates, it's also an opportunity to take significant responsibility over a matter."
Legal Aid Services is grateful to Cesar for his commitment to impact the lives of those who would otherwise go unserved. Many thanks to the partnership of GableGotwals Law Firm. The firm has an incredible group of attorneys who volunteer their talents to represent low-income and senior clients. They have been extraordinarily generous!
View the Tulsa World article featuring Tavares' pro bono roofing case: http://www.probono.net/link.cfm?20775
October 2012 Featured Volunteer: Charles Hunnicutt
In step with National Pro Bono Celebration week, October 21st - 27th, Charles Hunnicutt, (JAG Air Force Ret), was honored for eleven years of Pro Bono service at Legal Aid's Oklahoma City Law Office. Hunnicutt is a graduate of Oklahoma City University School of Law and practiced law at JAG Air Force.
Charles has served on Legal Aid Services Senior Advisory Board and has performed volunteer work with the OKC Law Office senior division since July of 2001. Seniors contact Legal Aid's statewide SPLASH Application Line for legal advice and assistance. Through telephone intake, Charles offered legal counseling and advice to persons in garnishment or collection situations relieving individual's months of stress, he helped the elderly avoid possible homelessness in housing or mortgage issues, as well as many other legal issues that affect senior's lives.
"We could always count on Charles to be at the office every Tuesday morning, noted Sharon Ammon, Volunteer Coordinator; he always had a colorful story or joke to keep the senior staff meetings lively." Recently, Hunnicutt reduced his volunteer hours and now concentrates his focus solely on Senior Advisory Board meetings.
The OKC staff and Senior Advisory Board members presented Charles with a clock displaying words of gratitude. Engraved on a brass plate are words of thanks for his years of service and dedication in helping resolve injustices that create barriers to senior's success.
Cake was served in his honor and an appropriate tune of "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" was sung to the honoree by members of the Advisory Board!
September 2012 Featured Volunteer: Lynn McNair
Among our greatest gift to us is time. Imagine you suddenly come into free time that wasn't available to you before. What would you do with it? How would you use it? There is a season for everything, a time to plant and a time for harvest. When Lynn McNair came into a new season in her life, she used the time for volunteering.
Lynn is a native Oklahoman and graduate of Edmond Central State College. She then attended the University of Oklahoma where she earned a Paralegal degree. For 27 years, McNair worked as a paralegal until 1995 when she began a new venture as co-owner of a construction company, Cherokee Builders. In 2004, Lynn traded in her work boots for leisure shoes and decided to retire.
But her days have not all been filled with leisure time. "I am just a retired person filling my days with work that I hope helps others out," says McNair. Lynn has volunteered close to 3,000 hours over the past 10 years at various community businesses and organizations including Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma; The Philbrook Museum of Art; DVIS; Court Watch; Hillcrest Medical Center; RSVP research projects; Meals on Wheels in Claremore; and Rogers County Youth Services.
In her volunteer jobs, Lynn utilizes many different life skills. At Hillcrest, she drew from her nurturing and motherhood skills by caring for babies as a Bundle Buddy volunteer, but then again at DVIS and Legal Aid her paralegal talents come in handy. "I feel it is important to give back to your community in any way possible. Volunteering provides many different types of experiences." states Lynn, "I like to volunteer and have enjoyed each place and what I get to do."
As an Intake Specialist at Legal Aid Services Tulsa Law Office, McNair assists staff attorneys with interviews and screening of applicants to gather information for eligibility. Volunteer Coordinator, Jeanie Wheeler appreciates Lynn's dedication and service. "Lynn is one of the best volunteers I have ever had, says Wheeler, "She is a volunteer everyone would want to have."
Each moment of time that we have comes with a reminder that there is no guarantee of another like it. We appreciate Lynn for choosing volunteer work as one of the seasons of her life. Thank you for planting your time with us to help low-income individuals gain access to justice. A harvest of rewards is sure to follow.
July 2012 Featured Volunteers: OU and OCU Student Interns
Back row lt to rt: Sharon Ammon, Volunteer Coordinator; Adam Krejci, Ryan Riddel
Middle row lt to rt: Megan Leger , Malisa McPherson , Katy Sokolosky, Matt Allen, Chris Leatherman
Front row lt to rt: Leah Bruce , Jodi Childers and Lauryn Carter.
Not Pictured: Natasha Chaudry , Keidra Massenburge, Daniel Gerber, Justin Cliburn and Nick Howard
Legal Aid's Oklahoma City Law Office threw a pizza party to show appreciation for their 15 summer student interns from OU and OCU Law Schools.
The interns assisted attorneys in many areas including Family Law, Pro Se Docket, Hispanic Outreach, Homeless Project, Senior Division, Legal Resource Project, SSI, Pacesetter games with United Way and our Toyota project!
Michael Figgins, Executive Director of Legal Aid Services was on hand to thank each intern for their service and to point out how much their help was appreciated.Legal Aid's Oklahoma City Law Office threw a pizza party to show appreciation
"It was an incredible group of interns," stated Sharon Ammon, Volunteer Coordinator, "they give so much life and energy to the office."
WE LOVE OUR INTERNS FROM OU & OCU!!!! Thanks for the tremendous amount of help each of you gave to the OKC Law Office this summer!!
June 2012 Featured Volunteer: Laurie Jones
Laurie Jones, Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University, was presented the 2012 Oklahoma County Bar Association's Pro Bono Award at the Annual Awards Luncheon on June 1, 2012, in Oklahoma City.
In her continuing efforts to search out volunteer opportunities for students, Laurie Jones engaged the assistance of Legal Aid and the private bar to implement a very successful pro bono clinic assisting pro se litigants at the Oklahoma County Courthouse. To date, close to 400 litigants have been served by the clinic utilizing services of law students and attorney volunteers. The Oklahoma County Law Library board and staff have been instrumental in the success of this program. Most litigants referred by the judges are low-income and many are also victims of domestic violence. Without the assistance of such dedicated lawyers, most would go unserved.
Laurie serves on the Oklahoma Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee and has written Access to Justice Articles for the Oklahoma Bar Journal.
Outside of her law school duties, Laurie has taken on a very important role as an attorney volunteer for a local battered women's shelter. Laurie goes to the shelter to meet with women who are currently in crisis mode due to domestic violence acts committed against themselves and/or their children. She takes the time to listen to the issues and give them advice within days of their arrival to the shelter.
Laurie also takes divorce litigation cases for Legal Aid clients. She doesn't shy away from complicated or time consuming matters. Currently she represents a lady she originally met at the domestic violence shelter. The client married a man who turned out to be very violent with her. He isolated her from her friends and family, would check the phones to see who she was talking to, would not let her leave the house except to work and he would escort her to and from work. The divorce case has been a highly contested matter and has been ongoing for nearly two years. To date, Laurie has over 200 volunteer hours in that case.
Congratulations to a very deserving award recipient!!!
_________Juliet Brennan _________________Rusty Smith ________________Martha Cherbini_________
Brennan, Smith & Cherbini, a law firm in Muskogee, made a $5,000 contribution to Muskogee's Legal Aid office. The gift to Legal Aid is the largest ever from an Oklahoma law firm outside the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro areas. The partners, Juliet Brennan, Rusty Smith, and Martha Cherbini, now are hoping other Muskogee County attorneys will do the same.
Carol Cowan, Managing Attorney with Legal Aid Muskogee Law Office, stated "The Brennan, Smith & Cherbini partners felt so blessed and fortunate that they wanted to contribute to the community and to encourage other firms to give back as well."
Juliet Brennan graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi in 1986. Mrs. Brennan has been practicing in Muskogee for 25 years.
Rusty Smith, a native of Ardmore, OK, graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in 1999 and obtained his law degree from the University Of Oklahoma College Of Law in 2002. Mr. Smith is a trial lawyer who has a diverse legal practice.
Martha Cherbini was raised in a military family and traveled all over the world. She received a B.A. in English in 1986 from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and then from George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, in 1989.
Our communities are at their strongest when individuals and organizations join together to fulfill a common vision. The lives of our clients are made fuller and Legal Aid's pursuit made stronger by the dedication and generous spirit of our volunteers and contributors. Thank you Juliet Brennan, Rusty Smith and Martha Cherbini for giving an integral part of who you are to assist low-income individuals and families to get the legal help they need in the Muskogee community.
Laura McConnell-Corbyn has been recognized as one of Oklahoma's Super Lawyers, ranking her in the top five percent of Oklahoma Family Law attorneys, not once, but for six consecutive years.
As a partner of Hartzog Conger Cason & Neville in Oklahoma City, McConnell-Corbyn practices litigation, family law and employment law. She holds a degree in biology from Oklahoma Baptist University and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. Laura has been with the firm since 1987.
As a representative of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, Laura serves as a member of the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Board of Directors. In 2011, she played a key role in the Campaign for Justice Fundraiser which benefits Legal Aid.
On December 31, 2011, the campaign was $20,000 short of reaching the $750,000 Campaign Goal. Laura issued a challenge on New Year's Eve urging others to be a part of the Campaign's effort to make "Equal Justice for All" a reality in 2012.
Laura's strive for excellence is like being reminded of that final championship game when your team is down 14-0 with 6 minutes remaining in play. The losing teams fans are disappointed, thinking it looks impossible, they begin to head for the exit. In the huddle, the quarterback reminds his fellow players of the pledge they made to each other in grade school to win the state championship in their senior year. That reflection on their dream became the turning point in the game. Two touchdowns later and a winning field goal in the last 7 seconds put them on top 17-14 to achieve the title victory.
This is just what Laura McConnell-Corbyn had to do. Many people in those last minutes might have given up thinking 'this is good enough.' But considering in that last moment on Oklahoman's generosity rather than defeat, Laura stepped up to encourage her community to answer the pledge. Of course, the Campaign not only achieved the goal, through the efforts of many individuals, but went on to exceed the target by $8,400.
During this time, when both Legal Aid and our clients have been hit especially hard by the current economy, we give our appreciation to Laura to honor her for generously helping to make Equal Justice for All a Reality in 2012.
Legal Aid Services is proud to feature volunteers from our local offices. This month, Allison Davis is recognized by the Tulsa Law Office.
Allison Davis, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, has generously given her time and talents to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma in the Tulsa Law Office since September of 2011. Allison's twelve month fellowship with our organization is part of the Public Service Initiative program sponsored by Vanderbilt University. This program allows recent law graduates to gain relevant work experience while also giving back to their communities. While in law school, Allison volunteered with Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee in their Nashville office and was very active in the Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society. The mission of Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society is designed to provide law students with a variety of activities to promote interest in and support the opportunity to work with typically underrepresented groups.
A native of Enid, OK, Allison attended The University of Tulsa to obtain her undergraduate degree. She is practicing with our Tulsa Attorney's in the area of Non-Family Law regarding consumer legal matters, which includes staffing the FED docket and representing clients in unemployment hearings. According to Scott Hamilton, Tulsa Law Office Managing Attorney, "Allison jumped right in and started handling cases in court almost immediately. She has made a big contribution to our office." The Tulsa Law Office appreciates the opportunity to bring Allison on board as an integral part of their team.
"My long-term goal is to work in a civil public interest position." Allison's goal reflects her effort to carry forward her school's tradition that public service work is an important part of legal education and an essential element of one's legal career. Allison is reaching the highest of standards in her desire to service low-income individuals and seniors to make equal justice for all a reality.
We commend Allison as an excellent example of professionalism in her contribution with Legal Aid Services as she carries out her objective with unwavering dedication in her new journey.
Our September 2010 Featured Volunteer is Attorney Bob Farris.
Bob has been a member of the Tulsa law firm Rogers and Bell since 1990 and his practice is focused on the areas of estate planning, trust and probate law. He has served as a Special Judge in the District Court of Tulsa County from 1981 to 1990 with the last 5 years being served in the probate division. He is also a member of the National College of Probate Judges, the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and has been an adjunct professor at the University Of Tulsa College Of Law since 1992. Bob teaches courses on Wills & Trusts and Elder Law at the University Of Tulsa College Of Law and also teaches at the TU Boesche Legal Clinic.
The reason we have chosen Bob as this month's Featured Volunteer is because of his continued work for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.
"He always has a client or two of ours that he's helping. In addition, he has done several trainings for our volunteers in the area of senior law," says Pro Bono Coordinator Karen Langdon.
Bob is also eager to lend his knowledge and expertise to Legal Aid, having spoken at our last Family Law Issues Seminar in May. For the last three years, Bob has held several trainings in the areas of Guardian Ad Litem, Deeds, Wills, Estates & Trusts for our pro bono partnership with Hall Estill and The Williams Companies as well.
"He is always the person we call when we need general legal advice in the senior area," says Karen. "He is a fantastic supporter of Legal Aid."
June 2010 Featured Volunteer: Zachary Schreiner
Our June 2010 Featured Volunteer is Zachary Schreiner of the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Tulsa Law office.
Between volunteering for the intake hotline in the Tulsa Legal Aid office in the mornings, doing courthouse filings and working for an outside Tulsa firm as a law clerk, Zachary stays quite busy.
Aside from volunteering for the intake hotline and doing some of the courthouse filings, Zachary does volunteer work with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for Legal Aid and is involved in a prisoner's rights lawsuit in the Western district.
"The work that Legal Aid does seems to represent more of what an attorney's role should be. In assisting people who have legitimate concerns and cannot pay for legal representation, your job has more of a purpose. I think it's very important to help people who can't pay for the help. Though the clients may not always listen, I like trying to do what I can to help others help themselves," Zachary says.
Zachary received his undergraduate degree at The University of Kansas in 2004 where he majored in English and Psychology. He later went on to attend law school at The University of Tulsa College of Law where he graduated in May of 2009. Zachary also served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Energy Law Journal.
"My goal is to find a full-time job, but I will do whatever I can to find work and learn more. Right now, I am building up more experience," Zachary said.
Aside from his work life, Zachary has been described as a "renaissance man" and says he enjoys staying active.
"I have been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for awhile. I enjoy cooking, reading and art. I guess I'm a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. To me, variety is important," Zachary says, "I don't like to do just one thing. Being an attorney has offered a career path that keeps variety present. I like being able to use law to further tap into my other interests."
Interested in hiring this talented attorney full-time? Contact him through the Tulsa Legal Aid Office, at (918) 584-3338.
May 2010 Featured Volunteer: Jack Dieken
Serving as a volunteer for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma for the past 6 years, this month we are honoring Jack Dieken as our Featured Volunteer.
According to Volunteer Coordinator Sharon Ammon, Jack began volunteering for Legal Aid's Oklahoma City office in the fall of 2004. Jack comes in every Wednesday and makes a huge contribution by helping with data entry for our Senior Law Project.
"He's 81 and has had some serious health challenges recently, but schedules his treatments so he can feel better to make it in on Wednesdays and volunteer," says Sharon, "He is the best."
Jack says volunteering for Legal Aid gives him a personal satisfaction and recognition. "It makes you feel grateful for what you have," said Jack.
In his personal life, Jack is a retired FAA supervisor and has traveled across the world with his wife, who is from Japan. Though they haven't traveled as much recently, Egypt, China, Japan and Singapore are a few of the places they have visited together in year's past. Jack also enjoys reading in his spare time.
"He is one of the most well-traveled, interesting gentlemen you would ever want to meet," says Sharon. "Can you tell I think highly of him?"
Jack's wife also volunteers in her spare time and enjoys pottery. Jack and his wife have one son and a granddaughter. They reside in Yukon.
Photo: Jack Dieken at the 2010 Volunteer Reception
Mr. Miley has chaired the Oklahoma County Bar Association's Legal Aid Committee for the past three years and has consistently volunteered at Legal Aid's Third Saturday Legal Clinic at Epworth United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, a program that provides both a legal clinic and a medical clinic at the church where low-income individuals and families can come for assistance. His dedication to the clinic is so strong that he even recruited his twin brother David to volunteer at the clinic with him. Legal Aid and their clients have clearly benefited from Mr. Miley's work in the field and will continue to benefit from his commitment to volunteer work.
As a long-time volunteer for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, John E. Miley of Oklahoma City has proven his compassion for the plight of those living in poverty. His commitment to Legal Aid and other causes earned him the 2009 OBA Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award, which he received at the OBA Annual Meeting last month.
Mr. Miley is the deputy general counsel of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. He is president of the general counsels' forum and chairman of the Oklahoma County Bar Pro Bono Committee.
John Miley being awarded the 2009 OBA
Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award by
OBA president Jon Parsley
Since teaming up with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma just a few months ago, the Devon, McAfee & Taft partnership is already seeing what a huge difference pro bono work makes -- and not just in the lives of the clients.
Jim Webb, a participating attorney with McAfee & Taft, already knew what a large caseload Legal Aid faces on a daily basis.
"What we want them to be able to do is have quicker turnaround, especially on some garden-variety stuff that otherwise they'd be having to struggle to find out, 'OK, what lawyer can take this will for this elderly person?'" Jim said to the Journal Record back in August when the partnership began.
Cindy Goble, Pro Bono Coordinator for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, is in charge of assigning many of the cases coming in that are then passed on to pro bono attorneys. One of the most memorable cases recently referred to McAfee & Taft involved a client who is dying of cancer.
"Our client is 54 and was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Her husband had left her a few months earlier. Her daughter disclosed to us that the client's cancer had recently spread to her liver. When I spoke with the client, she made it clear to me that it is very important to her to get a divorce even though her death is imminent. I referred her case to Jim Webb," said Cindy.
After Webb and his legal assistant, Karen Hill, sat down with this client, Jim described to Cindy just how touched he and Karen were by the meeting.
"I gave her all my phone numbers, told her to call if she had any questions or concerns at all, and assured her that she would be treated just as any of our paying clients," said Webb of the initial meeting with the client. "As I said that, she got tears in her eyes, told me how grateful she was for our help, and gave Karen a big hug," Webb continued. "Through a lot of hard work, Karen has been able to accomplish something our client could not - track down her long estranged husband. He has now agreed to a waiver divorce, and we are in the process of getting it all finalized."
Cindy says this is the type of experience she feels all pro bono attorneys need to have. "Once they do, they're hooked," she said, smiling.
"This is all about providing equal access to justice. I hope this program will continue to grow and be able to serve more people in poverty that would not have had access to the courts," said Cindy.
This case, still open, is just one among many awaiting equal access to justice. It is proof of just how vital partnerships like Legal Aid's with Devon, McAfee & Taft really are.
Jim Bender was recently honored as one of 10 corporate general counsels in the United States named as a 2009 Legends in Law award recipient. The award is given by the Burton Awards for Legal Achievement in association with the Library of Congress.
Bender says he feels very humbled to be selected for the award.
"I feel very fortunate to work for a company like Williams and with such a talented and professional group of attorneys, paralegals and support staff," said Bender.
Jim was nominated Hall Estill Hardwick Gable Golden & Nelson, of Tulsa.
"Our firm nominated Jim for the 'Legend in Law' award because we felt he had distinguished himself in the designated areas," said Mike Cooke, managing partner of Hall Estill.
In addition, Jim has been a key leader in the Williams/Hall Estill pro bono partnership with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. Last year, Williams was recognized nationally by the Pro Bono Institute when they were selected to receive an Outstanding Pro Bono Partnership award for their innovative and outstanding partnership with Legal Aid.
Currently, Bender serves as senior vice president and general counsel at Williams. There, he is responsible for managing the Williams legal department and overseeing the government affairs department, the corporate environmental, health and safety group and corporate security. He also serves as the company's chief compliance officer.
Bender received his juris doctorate degree in 1981 from the University of Minnesota Law School and his B.A. from St. Olaf College in 1978.
Outside of Williams, Bender serves on the board of directors for the Tulsa Area United Way, and is a member on the board of directors of The Parent Child Center of Tulsa and is a member of the board of trustees for the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.
"I wish I could clone her," says Jeanie Wheeler, Volunteer Coordinator for Tulsa Legal Aid Office, "she is just a wonderful volunteer."
Who is this person so amazing that Jeanie wishes to create two of them? None other than Tulsa volunteer Pam Lyle.
The Tulsa Law Office has been lucky to have Pam as a volunteer for the last two years. In those two years, Pam has worked diligently with senior citizens documents and guardianship issues. Co-workers describe Pam as being dependable and organized.
Pam shows up right on time every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. to assist attorney P.J. Brun, Hotline Staff Attorney, with senior citizens documents, guardianship issues, and whatever else is needed.
Before Pam moved to Tulsa, she was a paralegal for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY, working in the Trademark and Civil Law division. In addition, she wrote a monthly column for the Daily Record, the daily legal newspaper in Rochester, NY.
In her personal life, Pam is considered a master gardener, working with the Tulsa Garden Center to educate others that share her love for digging in the dirt. She is also an active member and office holder in the Tulsa Newcomers Club, a social organization for women new to the Tulsa area. Pam and her husband, Steve, have two grown sons.
Now that Pam and her family have settled in Tulsa and she has spent the last two years volunteering for Legal Aid, Pam is ready to commit to a full-time job as a paralegal.
Interested in hiring this talented, motivated professional? Contact her through the Jeanie Wheeler, Tulsa Law Office Volunteer Coordinator, at (918) 584-3338.
By Richard A. Riggs
The Oklahoma Bar Association, and particularly the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, suffered a huge loss with the unexpected death of Tulsan Roger Scott on July 1.
Roger had served as a trustee of the foundation since January of 2003 and during his entire tenure on the board, chaired, in exemplary fashion, the foundation's Development Committee. The Development Committee is the committee charged with seeking donations to the foundation through the OBF Fellows program and other efforts.
I keep on my desk a pamphlet published by the Character Training Institute that identifies seven "Leadership Perspectives." The pamphlet notes that "success requires viewing problems" from these seven perspectives. Those perspectives are those of a visionary, teacher, server, organizer, mediator, idealist and provider. Roger was one of those rare individuals who exhibited all these perspectives in his work, both as a practicing lawyer and as a volunteer.
Roger had an unqualified dedication to the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the good work it does in the name of Oklahoma lawyers. He was an active board member, always willing to take on any assignment - even taking charge of the tasks most of us would prefer to avoid - like asking friends for money. He rarely missed meetings and was always prepared with direct and probing questions. He was instrumental in implementing new OBF programs - not all those programs bore fruit, but Roger simply took failure as an opportunity to try something new. He always led by example and by gentle encouragement. Most impressively, he pursued all this with a positive spirit and a sense of humor.
Roger's volunteer efforts extended far beyond the bar foundation. He served in a number of capacities with the Tulsa County and Oklahoma Bar Associations and much of that work focused on an issue near to his heart - the ethical standards to which lawyers are held. He served for a number of years on the Tulsa County Bar Association Professional Responsibility and Grievance Committee. Fellow Tulsan Phil Frazier recalled that when Roger became chair of this committee, the committee had more than 90 cases pending - when Roger completed his term one year later, all pending cases (that's right, all cases) had been resolved.
His dedication to legal ethics led to service as the chair of the OBA Legal Ethics Committee, as a member of the OBA Professional Responsibility Tribunal and as chair of the City of Tulsa Ethics Committee.
As a result of his long standing dedication to legal ethics, Roger was awarded the John E. Shipp Award for Ethics in 2002. It will come as no surprise to learn that the trustees of the bar foundation uniformly felt a need to honor Roger's contributions to the Foundation. To that end, at the July 17 trustees' meeting, the trustees approved the establishment of an annual award in Roger's memory, designed to recognize outstanding efforts on behalf of the foundation. |Roger labored mightily to fulfill OBF's purpose - Lawyers Transforming Lives - and others who similarly contribute to this cause will be honored each year with this award.
The first recipient of the award will be recognized in November, in conjunction with the OBA annual meeting. I know Roger will be deeply missed by his family, but I also know they are blessed with many wonderful memories.
The thoughts of all the foundation trustees (and many other Oklahoma lawyers) are with Roger's family during this difficult time.
Roger's work with the foundation was centered on raising funds. We are now entering that time of year when the foundation's focus turns in another direction - awarding grants. This is a task that a number of foundation trustees are about to undertake with the same commitment and dedication that Roger exhibited.
The foundation is now receiving grant applications. Applications require detailed information regarding the potential recipient and its mission, including detailed financial information and a narrative description of the proposed use of OBF funds. Applications are distributed and reviewed by all members of the foundation's Grants and Awards Committee.
This year, this committee is under the leadership of Judge Valerie Couch. Other committee members are Dietmar Caudle, Cathy Christensen, Judge Dierdre Dexter, Kevin Donelson, Judge Shon Erwin, Luke Gaither, Leonard Logan, Brooke Murphy, Judge Millie Otey and Dennis Smith.
After reviewing the applications, the committee meets for a full day of interviews with applicants. This year, interviews are scheduled for late August. Following the interview process, the committee makes recommendations to the OBA board which will, in all likelihood, award grants at its September meeting. Service on the Grants and Awards Committee entails a significant time commitment, particularly at this time of year, but many trustees ask to be placed on this committee, as they find that direct exposure to the many organizations supported by OBF to be a uniquely rewarding experience.
Oklahoma lawyers can rest assured that the foundation's Grants and Awards Committee will be carrying out the grant process with a care and sensitivity appropriate to the task, and with an eye to the OBF mission - to promote justice, fund essential legal services and advance public awareness of the law.
Richard A. Riggs is president of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation. He can be reached at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org
Roger Scott of Tulsa died July 1. He was born Aug. 11, 1935. He graduated from the TU College of Law in 1960. He had served as a member of the Grievance and Professionalism Committee longer than any other member of the Tulsa County Bar, as chairman of that committee, as a member of the OBA Professional Responsibility Tribunal and as a trustee to the Oklahoma Bar Foundation. He was recognized by the OBA for his work within the TCBA and received the John Shipp Award in 2002 for exemplifying high ethical standards. Additionally, he was an active member of the Tulsa Masonic Lodge and a 33rd degree Mason. He also loved maintaining his classic Corvair and participating as an active member of the Tulsa Corvair Club. Memorial donations may be made to the Oklahoma Bar Foundation.
by Teresa Rendon
If there were a prize for the attorney who has been volunteering for the longest time, Mr. Israel would be a top contender. This month's pro bono attorney's long history with Legal Aid dates back to 1975 when he was licensed legal intern. That was back in the early days of Legal Aid when its home office was down by the county courthouse and Stan Foster was the director. Israel worked at the satellite office, affectionately dubbed the "outpost" which was at that time located on NE 4th Street. In fact, armed with his provisional license available to those who work at Legal Aid, Israel handled his first jury trial before he had even been sworn in a member of the bar! From then on, Israel has been hooked on pro bono service and has been volunteering for over a quarter of a century!
Israel recalls one custody case in which he represented an out-of-state father who was institutionalized in another state. Israel's client had never even set foot in the state of Oklahoma. He had no Oklahoma contacts except for the fact that the mother and his child were here. The notice of an attempt to terminate his parental rights was served by certified mail. Judge Rakestraw, who coincidentally had previously been Director of Legal Aid, ruled that the father's signature on the certified mail certificate gave Oklahoma personal jurisdiction over him and terminated his parental rights for failure to support his child. On appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Israel argued lack of minimum contacts, and the district court's decision was overturned. The result of Israel's advocacy was reinstatement of his client's parental rights. Recalls Israel, "I wasn't just representing this man; I felt that I was representing the Constitution. That was what was important in this case. That was why we go to law school."
In 1977, Howard and his brother Jay founded Israel & Israel where Howard plans to practice law "forever." His cases include personal injury, automobile accidents, products liability, workers' compensation, some family and some criminal. In spite of his busy law practice, Howard always finds time to take pro bono cases from Legal Aid, and for that Legal Aid and its indigent clients are forever grateful.
Fun facts about Israel
Ethan has a BS and MS in mechanical engineering and is a research scientist for a think tank doing fuel cell engineering.
Erin, a former newscaster and a 1L at OU School of Law.
To Thailand in 2006 with his whole family to celebrate his 36th wedding anniversary and his 60th birthday where he met the gentlest people in the world.
Last Book He Enjoyed:
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
What he is Proudest Of:
Erin and Ethan, his children
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma has lost a long-time attorney and very dear friend, Robert D. Lederer.
A reception was held Friday, May 29, 2009, at the courthouse in Altus, Oklahoma, to honor Bob's service and commitment to the legal profession as well as the community.
Bob was the former Director of the Southwest Oklahoma Legal Aid Program and the Managing Attorney of the Altus Law Center for Legal Aid of Western Oklahoma up until his retirement in 1998.
Leona Denning, who worked with Lederer in the Altus office, remembers Bob as "a dear, wonderful person and a force for good in the community. We at the Altus office will miss him very much. He was much loved by all who knew him."
As a legal aid attorney for 20 some years, Bob donated so much of his time and efforts to giving to the community in the hopes of making the world a better place.
Co-workers knew him most for being a wonderful person, great friend and very active in the community.
Dave Nimmer, Bob's best friend since high school, had some works of his own in regards to the buddy he knew so well.
"Bob Lederer is my idea of the people's servant. He never got rich - at least he never let on to me. He always cared. And he always did his duty. He defined with his life what a good man is," said Dave.
"For those who knew Bob, they realize what a good man, good lawyer, and community supporter we've lost," Legal Aid Executive Director Gary Taylor stated in response to news of Bob's passing, "he was a tremendous asset to our organization and will be greatly missed by all of us who were so fortunate to work with him."
Ruth Cardona, who worked as Bob's legal secretary for over 17 years said, "Bob had a way with people. He was a lot more than a managing attorney, he was a true friend."
Bob received his Bachelor of Science degree from Drury College in Springfield, Missouri and went on to receive his Juris Doctorate from Oklahoma City University.
Also a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, he was an active member at his church as well as the Masonic Lodge in Altus.
He and his wife Judene raised two children, David and Kristen.
A funeral service will be held in honor of Bob Lederer at the Lowell-Tims Funeral Home in Altus, Oklahoma, at 2 p.m., Monday, June 1.
by Cindy Goble
Oklahoma City attorney Gail Stricklin is a long-time dedicated proponent for non-abusive parents and children affected by domestic violence. Gail graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1979. She began her practice of law in the areas of oil and gas, corporate, contract and litigation, including out of state litigation, but has dedicated the bulk of her career to advocacy and representation of women and children who are involved in domestic violence situations. "The most rewarding work, as well as the most challenging, has been the volunteer work that I have done with non-abusive parents and children, for Legal Aid and Oklahoma Lawyers for Children."
In 1983, Gail began volunteer work at the YWCA with rape crisis and caring for children while the mothers attended domestic violence classes. "At a Mesa Park/Heritage Hills area shelter, I took the kids out to play while their mothers received domestic violence education."
After a child advocate position was created, Gail decided to learn family law to provide information to the residents. She became acquainted with Marilyn Staats of Legal Aid Services and from about 1986 forward, they formed a partnership in support of victims of violence. In 2000, Gail was instrumental in developing a pro bono legal assistance outreach program with Legal Aid Services. The Passageway project enables residents to obtain advice regarding their legal problems in a protected setting.
"Legal Aid provides an invaluable service to violence victims, as research studies from the University of Arkansas and Colgate indicate that access to legal services contribute more to the decline in domestic violence than do other sources such as shelters, hotlines or counseling."
"Over the years, I have represented many women who were in such danger of death that the only option was to change their identities."
After reviewing the name change laws, Gail, with the help of Judge Niles Jackson, developed a procedure to seal name changes for those victims of domestic violence in extreme cases. Eventually this work inspired her to seek legislative changes to the name change laws that would support and protect those in need of extreme measures. Finally, in 2006, the name change statutes were changed to allow a judge to waive publication of notice in limited instances.
Gail has helped women obtain new identities in these limited circumstances. The women had fled extremely abusive relationships with men who were well connected and would eventually find them. After leaving their home states, the women ended up in Oklahoma and had simply ran out of money. To Gail, it was clear that new identities were required to keep these women safe. Gail was able to change their names and helped them with creating safety plans.
"It is gratifying to know that these women are still alive and are now able to lead productive lives. They pay taxes and support themselves. They will always be looking over their shoulders and will never know a true feeling of safety and security, but they are now able to function as a meaningful part of society; rather than in the shadows. Better yet, their children now have a chance."
Since 2003, Gail has served as the OBA Representative to the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, whose mission is to reduce the number of domestic violence related deaths in Oklahoma. The OBA has been incredible in their support of the DV Fatality Review Board, sending me to relevant conferences and hosting seminars on domestic violence and keeping lawyers' clients safe."
Another area in which public policy has been affected by increase awareness of domestic violence issues is mediation and collaborative law. Gail understands the best practice to be no mediation in cases involving domestic violence. While the use of mediation or collaborative law may be entirely appropriate in non-abuse cases, the belief such law is appropriate in domestic violence cases poses great danger and potential inequitable results to clients. "These methods assume a level playing field, which definitely doesn't exist where a client has suffered emotional, sexual and physical abuse. I've had clients who just shake at the mere thought of having to be in the same courthouse as their abuser. How can they function at an informal mediation?"
Likewise, state laws and policies were changed recently to establish a presumption against joint custody with regard to domestic violence situations. The law and policy were changed after it was reported that half of the deaths in 2002 occurred during a child exchange where over half of the parties had joint custody. Look at the recent murders last year at Tinker. Those deaths may have been prevented if the law had been applied and safe visitation practices enacted."
Educating attorneys in the area of domestic violence is crucial to properly protect the client from re-victimization or possibly death. "Legal Aid has consistently sought to educate attorneys who work in the domestic violence field and will continue to do so. Other groups, the Attorney General's Office, Health Department, Coalition against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, host free or low cost seminars. Unfortunately, I have only seen few members of the bar attend."
Gail has been the recipient of the Oklahoma Bar Association Pro Bono Award and the Oklahoma County Bar Association Pro Bono Award. Gail is a great asset to Legal Aid and our clients. She has never declined when we request her help on a case. Many clients have benefited greatly throughout the years by her generous donation of time and effort.
"I would ask that our OBA members take one pro bono DV case a year. Legal Aid is there to support you; and I am always happy to assist in making a difference in the life of a child or an adult who deserves to know the fundamental right of being safe in our society."
by Teresa Rendon
Jimmy Goodman has worn many different hats in his pro bono service to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. From client advocate to long-term board member and fundraiser, Goodman has supported LASO's mission of providing equal access to justice. A Director at the law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy, Goodman makes sure that his firm is a leader in supporting Legal Aid in fundraising and in pro bono efforts.
According to Goodman, "In private practice we are often representing people of means and defending private rights. Legal Aid cases give us a chance to defend the human rights of those people who have become lost in the system." One memorable case was that of a slightly mentally challenged woman whose divorce had deprived her of visitation rights with her only child. Time had passed, and the woman's spouse had convinced the boy that his mother had no interest in him. Goodman handled this case all the way up to the Oklahoma Supreme Court where he prevailed in restoring visitation for his client. Reflecting on the personal impact of his pro bono representation, Goodman believes, "Service to Legal Aid reaps double rewards-- to the client and to the pro bono attorney as well. I feel like pro bono work makes me a better person."
Typical of the way Jimmy gets things done, he recently heard of the 2009 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and sent an email to attorneys throughout the state urging them to volunteer for a pro bono matter. He also practiced what he preached by calling that very day to take another pro bono case. Goodman's legacy doesn't just extend to inspiring his colleagues, he has also been an influence in the life of a young woman named Tia J. Goodman who happens to be his daughter. Tia, like her dad, is a frequent volunteer for Lawyers for Children in addition to attending to her solo practice. It appears that service to the community is a family matter with the Goodmans.
September Featured Volunteer: Angela Smith
by Teresa Rendon
There is an old saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person. Angela Smith is both busy and a generous person who juggles a seemingly infinite array of responsibilities and still has time to take on pro bono cases for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.
She is a solo practitioner, wife, involved mother of 8-year-old Jakob, step-mom to her husband's daughters, and community volunteer. On a given day, Angela can be hosting a teachers' breakfast in Yukon where public school teachers are honored and given special gifts, sponsoring her son's soccer team, sewing costumes for the Czech parade, or tending to a menagerie of pets including 3 dogs, 2 fire-bellied toads, and 2 guinea pigs.
When asked why she chose private practice, Smith replied, "I am in private practice for the sole reason that I want control over my schedule so I can devote time to my favorite roles in life: wife and mother. When I worked for a civil firm, I found myself leaving before my son, then age 2, awoke and coming home when he was asleep. When I think of it now, it makes me want to cry." As a solo practitioner, Angela is able to attend her son's soccer games, community events, church, and devote time to her marriage. No one is there to tell her when she can or can't take off to attend the school play. That's her call. After all, Smith adds, "Jake will only be young once, and I would hate to miss it." The downsides to practicing solo are inadequate health care coverage and the lack of back-up when she chooses to take off for family events.
Angela's Oklahoma City law office, Advocacy Incorporated, is ably managed by her husband Troy Smith, whom she persuaded to leave a career as a retail manager to insure that her office is always running like a Swiss watch. The 1999 Oklahoma City University College of Law graduate, practices in the areas of criminal defense, family law, expungement, juvenile cases, deprived child cases, wills and trusts, workers compensation, and other civil work such as personal injury. Smith's pro bono cases come to her through a process of self-referral. They are people who show up at her office with desperate situations and ask for representation. Smith sends them to Legal Aid for evaluation, and if they qualify, she takes the cases.
"I try to keep two pro bono cases open at all times. Almost every one of the clients I've offered to take pro bono have been first surprised and then more than appreciative," notes Smith.
Angela has handled many family law cases for Legal Aid. She is often cast in the role of peacemaker so that the children suffer less by reducing the conflict level. In one case, the mother had criminal accusation against her when the daughter fled the dad's house to come and live with her. Smith not only settled the custody issues, but was able to get all the criminal charges dropped. It was a great outcome for the mother, who got custody of her daughter and for the daughter who felt like she had finally been heard.
In another Legal Aid case, a lengthy mediation was required to get the parents to come together to decide what was good for the children, one of whom was a very troubled child who really needed the parents to be working together instead of at each others' throats. Smith believes that justice should not be just for the wealthy.
"I've been blessed to have a thriving private practice, and I do Legal Aid representation to provide justice to those who can't 'buy' it and to give back."
***This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of The Oklahoma County Bar's publication, The Briefcase.***
January 2009 Featured Volunteer: Cynthia Hess
January 22, 2009
Cynthia Hess, long time Legal Aid Services volunteer attorney, CPA and most of all beloved friend, has passed away.
Ms. Hess graduated from the University of Tulsa, both as an undergraduate and Law School, J.D. 1985. Ms. Hess was a longtime member of the Tulsa County Bar Association and chaired the Law Week committee in 2000-2001.
Cynthia was a volunteer attorney through Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and an adjunct professor at the University of Tulsa, College of Law. Cynthia's willingness to volunteer her time with Ability Resources was phenomenal and she was very active as a TU Alumnus. Cynthia loved TU sports and rarely missed a football or basketball game. Her love and knowledge of baseball was amazing! Cynthia's friendship and love for her family will be truly missed by all.
Cynthia was born and raised in Council Bluffs, Iowa and will return there for burial.
Bob E. Bennett Recognized by Oklahoma Bar Association
Bob E. Bennett received recognition last month from the Oklahoma Bar Association at its 104th Annual Meeting held in Oklahoma City.
Mr. Bennett was honored with the Joe Stamper Distinguished Service Award. This award is given each year to a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association for long-term service and significant contributions to the legal profession. He has served the legal community over the years in a number of capacities, which includes President of the Pontotoc County Bar Association, member of the OBA Board of Governors, OBA Vice-President, Chair of the Probate Code Committee, member of the American Bar Association, fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, fellow of the American Bar Foundation, member of the Oklahoma Health Lawyer's Association, and member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
Honored OBA Member, Bob Bennett
Earlier this year, Bennett received his 50-year pin, signifying 50 years of honorable service as a member of the OBA. Mr. Bennett plans to retire from practice at the end of this year.
Williams Companies/Hall Estill/Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Pro Bono Partnership Honored
Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a national pro bono partnership of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Pro Bono Institute, announced today that it will be presenting an award in recognition of outstanding pro bono efforts to the Williams/Hall Estill/Legal Aid Services partnership created a year ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 2008 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award honoree is being recognized for the comprehensive and impactful program the Williams Companies created, which fills what was once a gap in services to low-income and elderly Oklahomans with civil legal problems, such as end-of-life planning and guardian ad litem services.
The award will be presented at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Gala on November 13, 2008 at New York's Plaza Hotel. Attorneys from The Williams Companies, Hall Estill, and Legal Aid Services will attend the event to receive their award.
Corporate lawyers from The Williams Companies and Hall Estill were trained by Legal Aid attorneys to help seniors with wills, estate planning and powers of attorney. Guardian ad litem training was also done. Now lawyers who typically work on complex cases such as mergers, acquisitions and securities are helping low-income and elderly Oklahomans with their legal problems. Each attorney says he has come back very affected by the personal relationship established with the clients, and the clients have received expert legal assistance.
August 2008 Featured Volunteer: Craig Raney
August 22, 2008
The Challenge is a simple, voluntary statement of commitment to pro bono service by legal departments, their lawyers and staff. All Challenge Signatory legal departments receive information, guidance and tailored support, free of charge, from Corporate Pro Bono to strengthen their existing pro bono programs or start new ones.
In the fall of 2006, during Tulsa's United Way Campaign, Williams' General Counsel, Jim Bender, took his direct reports to visit the offices of Legal Aid. During a morning-long conversation with the staff, we were moved by the unmet need for legal services among our community's poorer population, as well as the dedication of Legal Aid's small, overworked staff. We told them we wanted to help.
We decided to see what we could do. Beginning with a "town hall" meeting of the department, we outlined the opportunity and asked for volunteers. We met with Tulsa's largest law firm, Hall Estill, and asked if they would join us. Soon we had approximately forty new lawyers and paralegals signing on as Legal Aid volunteers. It was the single largest influx of volunteers ever absorbed by Legal Aid, surpassing even their long-term volunteer recruitment goals. The pool of volunteers has continued to grow.
But how should we provide the service? We first recruited a local attorney and two District Court Judges to teach us about various elder law issues. We videotaped these sessions, and added them to the Legal Aid website to be accessed by subsequent volunteers. Then, our General Counsel personally and visibly took on the first case - and we were off and running. We have thus far been able to cover the needs of our community's elderly poor for estate planning and other end-of-life issues, and we have been able to supply the most critical guardian ad litem needs of our local guardianship court. Our team is now looking at branching out into other areas of need, including garnishment and unemployment compensation cases for Legal Aid.
There have been many positive outcomes from our initiative, but the most important has been the feeling created by the thanks we have received from the clients we have served.