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Oklahoma Lawyers Making Equal Justice for all a Reality

Devon & McAfee Taft In-House Attorneys Begin Partnership with Legal Aid

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

  • By: Gayla Machell
  • Organization: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

DEVON & McAFEE TAFT IN-HOUSE ATTORNEYS
BEGIN PARTNERSHIP WITH LEGAL AID

In-House counsel at Devon Energy and attorneys from McAfee & Taft are launching a program with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma to provide free legal assistance to more needy Oklahoma City residents, according to Michael Palmer, associate general counsel at Devon.  The corporate – non-profit partnership was inspired by the successful work in Tulsa of attorneys from The Williams Companies with Legal Aid Services clients.

The partnership expects to provide legal services to more unemployed and poor persons hit by the current recession than Legal Aid could have served through its in-house legal staff.

The Oklahoma City corporate and non-profit collaboration began with the assistant general counsel at The Williams Companies telling Palmer how much helping Legal Aid clients meant to the Williams attorneys.  Palmer was impressed and met with Legal Aid attorneys to discuss the needs in Oklahoma City.  Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma – the statewide nonprofit law firm serving low-income and elderly Oklahomans with civil legal problems – cannot provide legal help to every eligible applicant due to lack of resources.  Palmer wondered if any of Devon’s attorneys in downtown Oklahoma City would be interested in volunteering for Legal Aid and if lawyers at McAfee Taft, who work with Devon often on oil and gas matters, would join the collaborative effort to better serve the community.
“We don’t usually encounter individuals in the community or have a chance to be involved with the local judicial system,” Palmer said. “So it was intriguing to us, and it was a way to get involved in the Oklahoma City legal community and the local United Way.”
Now Legal Aid has almost two dozen lawyers, paralegals, and support staff ready to dig into casework. That means the agency can serve many more clients than in years past.


“This program hopefully will continue to grow and be able to serve more people in poverty who would not have had access to the courts. We’re giving equal access to justice,” said Cindy Goble, statewide pro bono coordinator for Legal Aid Services in Oklahoma City.

The new volunteer lawyers will be trained in certain areas by Legal Aid Services experts and will be teamed with McAfee Taft attorneys for other training. In most cases they will work at nights and on weekends, as their daily schedule during the week is occupied with company business.  Volunteers can easily help seniors with wills, powers of attorney, and other end of life documents.

Williams’ attorneys in Tulsa have reported that their Legal Aid work has greatly affected them, as they see the delight in their client’s eyes when they meet their own attorney to assist them with a legal problem. Participating attorneys from Devon and McAfee & Taft are looking forward to working with individuals needing legal assistance.
 

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