Katie Bove is an emeritus pro bono attorney who has been a WSBA member since 1993. In this interview, she shares her experiences as an emeritus pro bono member and how it has kept her foot in the legal profession, allowing her to give back and put her skills to good work.
How have you volunteered and what has that experience been like?
I was originally a prosecutor with King County in the criminal division, so I had dealt with victims of domestic violence in assault cases. When I knew I wanted to do pro bono under the Emeritus Pro Bono rule, I figured I would want to start with something I had some familiarity with. I approached the CLEAR program at Northwest Justice Project, and they placed me in the family law unit. I worked a lot with the same types of victims, just different issues. There was lot of domestic violence , custody, parenting plans, and people trying to get protective orders against abusers. I found I was able to pick up the family law rules and apply them without much difficulty. Currently, I volunteer with Solid Ground, another Qualified Legal Service Provider that serves low-income clients and protects their rights in cases where the Department of Social and Health Services has limited or cut off services.
I was really happy to see how accommodating both Solid Ground and the Northwest Justice Project were. They prepared me with training and had staff attorneys available for me to observe firsthand how they work with clients and apply the law. The staff attorneys helped me to understand the rules and gave me advice on how to apply the law when certain situations arise. These attorneys were my sounding board and they were able to back me up.
What surprised you about volunteering?
What surprised me most was how little I felt I gave of myself and how much it meant to the clients.
What also surprised me was talking to folks who call in during the intake line and just how personally you get involved with their situation, because most often their issues touch you. You can relate to what they are going through with their kid or their domestic situation. These are people who have had to work within the system for a long time and they are well versed about the different aspects of the programs. It is amazing and tragic how much they already know about DSHS, for example.
What professional skills have you gained through engaging in public service?
Spotting the issues as they tell their story and being able to quickly address and organize them. When they call, they spill out their story. It’s almost like an oral bar exam: as they are talking, you are spotting things and then you’re addressing the issues, whether it be time constraints, statute of limitations, or different things about interstate adoption when someone has been taken out of state or the country.
Bearing in mind confidentiality rules, would you be willing to share a client story with us?
During my volunteer work, there was a woman who was not a legal guardian but a guardian of a young boy. The young boy had a severe medical issue and she couldn’t sign off on his treatment because she was not his legal guardian. I worked to get her an emergency temporary guardianship that allowed him to get the needed medical treatment. She made it a point to reach back out to thank us and basically say that we were able to help save his life. I felt really good about that outcome.
What would you say to a peer who is interested in volunteering?
I would say that it is fulfilling and doable because it is so flexible in terms of hours and locations, as well as the array of volunteer opportunities available. Any little bit of time — 3-4 hours a week or every other week — doesn’t feel like you are giving much, but what you are giving is making a huge difference to the lives of the people who need our help.
With the new CLE rules that require CLE credit to get back to active status, it is great that the Bar is acknowledging the importance of providing free CLE credit. Also, the conversion of your pro bono hours to CLE credits is such a professional reward. As we know, CLEs are expensive, and on emeritus pro bono status, you are not bringing in income. You want to be trained, you want to produce quality service, and practice in a way you can be proud of.
This month, look for opportunities to serve the public and the profession, learn about the rules and resources that support you to do pro bono, and hear from your peers the many rewards of volunteering.