UTAH STATE BAR PRO BONO PUBLICO AWARDS

The Utah State Bar’s Pro Bono Publico Awards recognize those who have provided or enabled the direct provision of legal services, free of charge, for Utah's most vulnerable citizens—people living in poverty, individuals with disabilities, veterans, seniors, minorities and victims of domestic violence. While the obstacles to equal access to justice continue to mount, the willingness of attorneys to help meet the legal needs of the indigent in their communities is important to those in need of service.

Law Firm of the Year

     Holland & Hart

In 2013, Holland & Hart’s Salt Lake City office of 94 attorneys and paralegals provided 13,393 hours of pro bono civic service, including 3,537 hours of legal services. The types of matters undertaken involved nearly every legal area in which the firm is engaged; approximately 72 legal matters were handled.

The firm also worked with local organizations benefiting indigent members of the community through The Tuesday Night Bar and other programs of the Utah State Bar, Senior Center Legal Clinic, The Road Home, United Way of Salt Lake, Candy Cane Corner, Homeless Youth Resource Center by Volunteers of America of Utah, and the Utah Food Bank, among.

Holland & Hart’s pro bono work in 2013 included:

Represented a family seeking asylum from Guatemala. The family fled from their home where their lives and the lives of their extended family were threatened on multiple occasions as part of an extortion scheme thought to be motivated by the family’s religion. The extortionists murdered two members of their family to send a message. The firm contacted religious leaders and legal counsel in Guatemala to obtain documentation regarding religious persecution. Extensive legal research was conducted on nuanced asylum issues such as defining a social group, country-wide persecution, and changed country conditions. After reaching out to several community resources, the firm was able to put the family in touch with a mental health professional who provided free psychological assessments and counseling for the adverse mental health impacts of the persecution, which significantly bolstered their claims.

Recovered monetary damages in a bankruptcy matter for a couple in their mid-80s. The elderly couple was the victim of a fraudulent investment scheme and lost all of their retirement funds after being persuaded to invest in what a financial advisor promised was a “guaranteed opportunity.”

Representation of a couple in their petition for adoption of two Argentine-born children.

Representation of a couple in petition for guardianship of their adult, incapacitated son born with severe cerebral palsy who operated at the equivalency of a 3 month-old infant.

For the second year in a row, 12 attorneys participated in a formal mentoring program—The Utah Minority Bar Association’s Diversity Pipeline Initiative—which the firm helped establish in 2012, serving minority scholarship law students at University of Utah and Brigham Young University law schools. Mentors met regularly with law students to provide opportunities to ask questions about the profession, attend networking events, seek guidance and prepare for a career in law. The firm also hosted training events for the students including resume writing workshops, mock interviews and seminars on oral advocacy. Third District Bar Commissioner Janise Macanas praised the program for having an ancillary benefit on the community, “the students being mentored by Holland & Hart attorneys are in turn, contributing significant time and hours to working at various pro bono clinics and internships affiliated with their respective law schools.”

Represented a Davis School District teacher/fishing enthusiast who instructed a community fly-fishing class in his spare time and charged students the cost to cover expenses. The client would instruct the students on the methods of fly-fishing then take a class trip to different locations in nearby states. Criminal and federal charges were filed after government officials learned of the instructor’s activities and alleged he was operating as an unlicensed outfitter. The client—who supported his family on a high- school teacher’s salary—was fined fees in excess of $25,000, which would have forced him into bankruptcy. With the firm’s help, the teacher was able to reduce his criminal charges and fees to a nominal amount.

Young Lawyer of the Year

     Kate Conyers

Kate Conyers is a Public Defender at Salt Lake Legal Defender Association. She is very active as a volunteer on boards and committees within the legal profession, including current positions as Immediate Past President of the Young Lawyers Division of the Utah State Bar and the Treasurer of the Women Lawyers of Utah, as well as board member of the Salt Lake County Bar Association and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and committee member for the American Bar Association and the Utah Minority Bar Association. She was recently an ex-officio member of the Utah State Bar Board of Commissioners and Utah/Nevada’s representative for the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.

Fellow attorney Noella Sudbury met Conyers in law school six years ago, and she said, “Not surprisingly, one of my earliest memories of Kate involved volunteering. We both signed up to judge a Mock Trial competition in Logan, Utah, and decided to carpool.” Sudbury talked to Conyers about post-school plans, “I remember thinking that Kate was one of the most selfless and giving people I had ever encountered, and I was anxious to see what she would actually do. Since that time, Kate has been true to her word.”

Here are a few of Conyers projects:

The American Voter Project, a program serving more than 60 classrooms around the valley and approximately 2,200 students. On Law Day 2013, volunteers went to schools across the valley to teach students about those who fought for the right to vote and to try to encourage students to get involved in politics;

The Cinderella Project. Volunteers travel to different high schools throughout the Salt Lake Valley to provide low-income high-school students with new or gently used prom dresses, shoes, and accessories for proms;

The Women Lawyers of Utah Guadalupe School Girl Scout Troop. Conyers is often at weekly meetings teaching elementary students about civics, community service, and the legal profession. A member of the WLU Board described Conyers’s involvement in this program as “integral” and said that the troop wouldn’t exist without her tireless efforts.

Veterans Administration Free Legal Clinic. Conyers organized a new monthly legal clinic to provide veterans and their families with advice in all areas of law.

Conyers also helps with free continuing legal education classes for young lawyers, is a regular contributor to the Salt Lake County Bar Association’s Bar & Bench, and volunteers for the Constitution Day Civics Project, Wills for Heroes, Serving our Seniors, the Utah Law Related Education Project’s Mock Trial Program, the Bar’s weekly legal clinics including Tuesday Night Bar, the Street Law Clinic at Horizonte School, and as a pro tempe judge for Small Claims Court.

Conyers colleagues:

“Kate is constantly using her free time for the benefit of others. She is always working on something.” – Jesse Nix

“I don’t know of a more involved and enthused lawyer than Kate. Kate regularly does the good work that most lawyers rarely, if ever, do. Most importantly Kate is sincere about her pro bono work. Kate does pro bono work out of the true spirit of pro bono.” – Owen Stewart

“Kate truly is an inspiration. She strives every day to bring justice for people who cannot fight for themselves, and she does it with a sense of humor and a smile.” – Amy Fowler

Law Student of the Year

     Maureen Minson

Maureen Minson is a third-year student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. She is dedicated to serving diverse and often underprivileged members of our community.

Since her second year, Minson has been the Volunteer Student Director of the Rainbow Law Clinic, which specializes in LGBT legal issues, at the College of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative. Pro

Bono Initiative Director JoLynn Spruance said, “If it wasn’t for Maureen helping develop, structure, train, and manage this clinic, our community might currently be without this service.” During the summer of 2012, Minson was the Volunteer Student Director of the Pro Bono Initiative’s Street Law Clinic.

In addition to her service within these clinics, Minson also attended the Third District Pro Bono Committee meetings and assisted Utah Legal Services. She has volunteered more than two hundred-sixty hours.

Spruance said, “I have been continually impressed with Maureen’s ability to interact professionally with our numerous supervising attorneys, staff, and students. I believe Maureen’s drive, demeanor, communication skills, work experience, and ability to think through complex legal issues make her an ideal law student of the year.”

 


Young Lawyer of the Year Award:  

     Liisa Hancock

The Young Lawyer of the Year Award is given by the Young Lawyers Division of the Utah State Bar to a young lawyer who exhibits outstanding professional excellence, service to the profession and the Bar, service to the community, and advancement of legal ethics and professional responsibility.

Liisa Hancock sets an example of how an attorney can use their law degree to help the community in which they live. Outside of her work at Jeffs & Jeffs, Hancock has participated in many different programs helping to provide legal services to those in need.

Hancock is a member of the Young Lawyers Division Board, and worked as the liaison with the Utah State Bar Modest Means Lawyer Referral Committee (of which she was a founding member).  The Modest Means Lawyer Referral program provides affordable legal assistance to people who make from 125% to 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (up to $70,000 for a family of four).  The program is a valuable resource for individuals who need legal assistance but cannot qualify for pro bono legal services.

When Hancock was the president of the Utah County Bar Association, she was asked to sit on an organizing committee to create the Timpanogos Legal Center, and was asked to join its board at its inception. The Timpanogos Legal Center assists low-income people in Utah County.  She also sits on the Fourth District (Millard, Juab, Utah and Wasatch Counties) Pro Bono Committee made up of judges, attorneys, and community partners.  Such committees were set up by the Utah State Bar throughout Utah to determine local legal needs and to develop programs to assist those who are unable to pay for legal services.   

Utah State Bar Access to Justice Coordinator Michelle Harvey said, “Liisa truly exemplifies what it means to give service in any way that you can.  She does not just sit on each of these boards or committees, but is actively involved in their meetings and the programs they develop.”

The Liberty Bell Award:  

       JoLynn Spruance

The Liberty Bell Award is given by the Young Lawyers Division of the Utah State Bar to a non-lawyer for promoting better understanding of the Rule of Law, encouraging a greater respect for law and the courts, stimulating a sense of civic responsibility, and contributing to good government in the community.

JoLynn Spruance is the Director of the Pro Bono Initiative at the University of Utah.  She works with law students teaching them the importance of providing pro bono service, both while in law school and in their careers.

Spruance helps run many clinics in the Salt Lake Valley, including the Street Law Legal Clinic, the Family Law Clinic, the Debtor’s Counseling Clinic, and the Immigration Clinic.  As part of running these clinics, she oversees student directors in recruiting and preparing other students to participate, advertising the clinics to the public, and working with community partners in order to make sure that the clinics happen.

Utah State Bar Access to Justice Coordinator Michelle Harvey said, “JoLynn gives so much of herself in order to teach the students how valuable pro bono service is to them and to the community they serve.  She inspires those who are the future of the legal profession.”


SCOTT M. MATHESON AWARDS

In 1991, the Law-Related Education and Law Day Committee of the Utah State Bar create the Scott M. Matheson Award to commemorate Scott’s contribution to law-related education in the State of Utah and to recognize annually individuals and organizations making outstanding contributions to law-related education for youth in the State of Utah.

TIMOTHY B. SCHADE

Timothy B. Schade received his J. D. from the J. Reuben Clark law school after which he joined the law firms Lord, Bissell & Brook in Chicago, Illinois, and then Snell & Wilmer in Salt Lake City. At present, he is General Counsel for Lifetime Products, Inc. which is currently a leading manufacturer of portable and in-ground basketball systems and the world’s leading manufacturer of plastic folding tables and chairs. As General Counsel, Schade monitors and manages more than 150 patents worldwide in addition to seeking protection for and enforcement of their intellectual property throughout the world.

Schade has coached Central Davis Junior High School’s mock trial team for five years, and, during the 2014 Mock Trial competition, he also was the mock trial coach at Legacy Junior High School. Mock trial teachers are very pleased with Schade’s participation:

“He is a dedicated coach; all of the time he spent with the students has led to those students looking up to Mr. Schade as a mentor. They know that he cares about each of them as individuals, and that he wants them to succeed not only in the Mock Trial Program, but also in life.”

“Each year, Mr. Schade has provided a celebratory deluxe breakfast at our annual end-of-season gathering. As he would leave, he has been heard to say, ‘I’ll be here again next year, if you’ll have me.’ He has taught our teams to act with class, no matter the outcome.”

YOUNG LAWYERS DIVISION for AMERICAN VOTER PROJECT

In celebration of Law Day 2013, the Young Lawyers Division organized the American Voter Project to educate students about the generations who struggled to guarantee our right to vote and to inspire all Americans to participate in the election process.

In February 2013, a committee led by Kate Conyers, Michael Lundberg and Sharia Yancey set up a website with information about the program for both the teachers who would request presentations and the lawyer volunteers who would need resources and videos as part of the presentation.

The presentation included a discussion on voting rights and a documentary film highlighting the history of the right to vote. The committee had a greater response from teachers than expected. Fortunately, they were able to accommodate all teachers across the state—from St. George to Tremonton—by reaching out to local county bar associations which recruited local lawyers to cover presentations in their areas. On Law Day 2013, approximately 25 volunteer attorneys made presentations to approximately 65 classrooms, educating over 2,200 K-12 students on the history of voting, the requirements of voting, and the importance of exercising their duty to vote as a constitutional right.