BMAC Volunteer Attorney Program: Changing Lives in Eastern Washington

By September 24, 2015 Legal Aid, Pro Bono No Comments

By: Katharine Nyden, Program Coordinator of Blue Mountain Action Council Volunteer Attorney Program

I have worked as the Program Coordinator at the Blue Mountain Action Council Volunteer Attorney Program for 3 years. In my work, I am constantly reminded of the positive impact civil legal aid services can have for individuals and families in our community. Cierra’s story is a perfect illustration of how our volunteer attorneys help empower our clients to improve their lives.

The Blue Mountain Action Council is truly a wonderful place to work, as I feel the community action model is conducive to addressing a wide range of client needs. I can easily refer clients to other case managers from programs including energy subsidies, housing, veteran’s support, employment services, and adult literacy assistance. So often, our clients’ legal issues are very much intertwined with (and exacerbated by) needs they have in other areas. I feel that we are more effective in our assistance to clients, as we can attempt to tackle multiple issues at once. I have also had the benefit of professional growth, as I am surrounded by people who have been doing this work for decades. I consider myself and my clients very fortunate to be surrounded by capable, compassionate, and helpful individuals. I can walk across the hall and gauge what other services might be available to my clients and vice versa, which I believe ultimately amounts to more powerful advocacy and holistic assistance. It’s easy to have a myopic view of our role as legal aid providers, but community action is founded on the premise that sustained alleviation of poverty results from addressing the varied needs of our clients.

Of course, this work would not be possible without the local attorneys who volunteer their time to assist low-income clients with their civil legal needs. One of our long-time volunteers, Bridie Hood, embodies the altruistic spirit of the attorneys who work with our program:

"I do pro bono work because I believe in giving people access to justice who would otherwise not have it. Our legal system can be unfair for people without resources, and I believe that everyone deserves the same chance at justice, regardless of income."

− Bridie Hood

Although the process of assisting our clients can be arduous, people like Cierra and Bridie inspire hope. BMAC volunteer attorneys truly give a voice to clients, who are challenged with navigating a complex and inherently confusing legal system. I’m grateful to work for an organization that is so ingrained and vital to the health of our community, and I am excited to see what civil legal aid can continue to do to improve the lives of our clients.

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