Take It from a WSBA Volunteer: A Q&A With Kari Petrasek

Two female legal volunteers women wearing face masks, walking on a city street.

All this week, the WSBA is joining others around the country during National Volunteer Week to recognize and celebrate the many invaluable volunteers who devote their time and expertise to carry out the WSBA mission of serving the public, ensuring the integrity of the legal profession, and championing justice.

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to honor the impact of all those who do good in our communities, and inspire others to make a difference and improve the world. So every day this week, NWSidebar will publish new interviews with a few of our outstanding volunteers

For questions about volunteering with WSBA, please contact Volunteer Engagement Advisor, Paris Eriksen at parise@wsba.org.

What has been your proudest moment or favorite memory so far as a WSBA volunteer?

I served on the Washington Young Lawyers Division (WYLD) Board of Trustees starting in 2005. I was President of the WYLD from 2010-2011. Part of the last meeting for that year involved implementing a public service project (Serving our Seniors will clinic) that I had been wanting to start here in Washington after learning about it from the American Bar Association YLD. The entire WYLD Board volunteered at the will clinic. It went so well and was so well received that I worked with Snohomish County Legal Services (SCLS) to help them start a much-needed will clinic. We have been doing a quarterly will clinic at SCLS since 2011. Another project the WYLD started in a few counties was the Greater Access and Assistance Project (GAAP) that became what is now known as the Moderate Means Program. I am genuinely proud of the work the WYLD Board did to create programs that helped new and young lawyers gain experience while also helping bridge the access to justice gap.

Did you have any misconceptions about volunteering before you began and have they changed?

I have volunteered in many capacities on many WSBA boards, committees, and work groups. I do not recall having any misconceptions when I joined the WYLD Board of Trustees and the Solo & Small Practice Section Executive Committee since I had served on other boards before joining these two boards. However, I have served on several WSBA work groups and committees, and most of the time I did not have a clear picture of how the committee would function, how long it would last, or what end result was expected before we started meeting. Once we started working as a group, though, it became clearer what the purpose and goal of each committee was. I have found that if the committee’s topic is of interest to me—even if the purpose of the committee or work group is not clear in the beginning—it will become clear once we start meeting and serving on that committee will be worthwhile and enjoyable.

What have you learned that you might not have if you had not volunteered? Has it changed your approach to practicing law?

Because of my involvement in the WYLD, I met new and young lawyers all around the state and heard lots of different perspectives about the practice of law. I learned from not just the friends I met on the board, but also from those I met around the state that there is definitely more than one way to practice law and still be effective and successful. Once I became involved in the Solo & Small Practice Section, I started to see different perspectives even more. All the conversations I had over the years with friends and colleagues helped me decide how to shape and form my law office when I started it in 2015. Prior to starting my own firm, I had always worked for someone else and, for the most part, had to go with their way of practicing law. By starting my own firm, I could change how I practiced law in my new firm to best meet the needs of my clients, along with my needs and personality, using what I thought were the “best practices” I heard from all the conversations I had with other attorneys who I otherwise would not have met had I not been a volunteer in a division, section, committee, or work group.

What have you found most inspiring among your fellow WSBA volunteers?

I find it very inspiring to see so many people who are willing to volunteer their time to make the practice of law better for everyone, including law students, by sharing their experiences, talents, wisdom, and time. Hearing a person’s story about why they went to law school, became an attorney, and how their career has progressed is also very inspiring. It is quite apparent to me that everyone who volunteers is very passionate about what they are volunteering for. Working with others who share the same interest you have about a topic or goal makes the volunteer work enjoyable, fun, and worth every minute spent working on the committee.