February 2015 Featured Volunteer: Mark Gutel
- Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
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.”
The clinic is a project of the Oklahoma County District Courts in partnership with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City University School of Law, and Oklahoma Child Support Services. It is staffed by volunteer lawyers and supervised law students resulting in quick resolution and finalization for cases on the docket.
Mark remembers one client whose lack of legal representation presented a barrier to a successful outcome. Her husband was in jail. She wanted a default judgment but the judge denied her based on insufficient service of process. The client’s husband was served by certified mail, but without restricted delivery, signed for by the Sheriff. The statute requires restricted delivery for service by mail.
Early on in the case, the Sheriff took the client’s husband to a temporary order hearing. We found case law holding that restricted delivery isn't required if the Respondent had actual notice of the lawsuit. With case in hand, a law student argued that the Respondent's earlier appearance at the temporary order hearing was proof that he had actual notice, so service was sufficient. The judge agreed.
Mark points out that this case draws together some valuable things about the clinic: a needy client, some light legal research, and a law student gaining valuable experience.
“Ethically, we should all aspire to have some pro-bono work each year. Low-income clients are just as deserving of quality legal representation, despite their inability to pay,” said Mark.
Another highlight of the clinic Mark says is spending time with some of the coolest and most interesting attorneys, paralegals, and law students that Oklahoma County, Legal Aid, and Oklahoma City University Law School have to offer.
His solo practice is largely in family law but he is gradually working into a general civil practice. When he is not practicing law, Mark loves to balance his free time between the active study of religion, philosophy, physics, and math and the passive activities of browsing the internet and binge watching movies/TV.
Thank you Mark for giving of your time and talents to help represent low income individuals!
- Pro Bono/Legal Services