BY CHRISTINE PANGAN OPEN DIALOGUE
A public interest attorney and pro bono volunteer discuss giving back though their job and free time Featuring Leah Boucek and Dovie King Leah Boucek
n this issue honoring our service award winners, our “Open Dialogue” explores working in public interest as a career and as a volunteer. Staff attorney Leah Boucek (Family Law Facilitator) and volunteer attorney Dovie King (Legal Aid Society of San Diego), spoke with San Diego Lawyer about their experiences. Leah was in private practice from 1995-2011 and has been working at the Facilitator’s Office for the past three years. Dovie, who has been practicing law since 1999, currently works in education and does exclusively pro bono work as an attorney. Becoming involved in public interest Leah (LB): I did some volunteer and public interest work at the beginning of my career and throughout. In recent years, I moved away from family law litigation. I really enjoy working with people, but I don't love the fight. There were aspects of it I enjoyed and certainly it was challenging. But people are in crisis all the time, and that's magnified by the fact that you're litigating all the time. When I took that part out of it, all the rest I really like. Dovie (DB): I first started volunteering at the Legal Aid Society [five years ago] when I was in private practice. I moved to the area of domestic violence last year more for personal reasons. I decided to end an abusive relationship, so that gave me an interest in helping others who were facing that sort of uncertainty. I personally do not have a strong interest in family law, [laughs] perhaps more for personal reasons having gone through it. I can leave the clinic every day feeling like I helped someone's life and it's very meaningful. Benefits of full-time public interest or volunteering part-time LB: We're fortunate at Family Court — we have a great team. It’s very satisfying to
help as many people as we do on a regular basis. You just can’t do that in a private practice office, it’s not designed that way. You can better manage people’s expectations in a setting like our office where you aren’t individually representing them. They’re not walking out thinking the end result is your responsibility. With people in crisis and families in trouble, there’s a heavy load that comes with that. You take on a lot of responsibility and feel personal about people's issues, but you can’t take it on personally — that’s not healthy. DK: I love that I can do attorney work when my chosen career at this point is teaching. I can balance using my law degree and my legal skills to assist individuals without the expectation of having an individual I’m responsible for. That provides the flexibility to balance family, work and volunteer life. LB: For me, and this is really specific to the Family Law Facilitator’s Office, but I really love that [our office is] in family court. It’s a great, fun balance of being in the court environment and atmosphere. We get to do the orders for the judges and court staff on self-represented cases, and you get such a wide range of issues. Also, just like Dovie said, the stability and flexibility of this type of work is a huge blessing.
DK: And I feel that I’m able, without delving into family law deeply, to help with aspects of family law because through restraining orders the person can ask for specific orders such as child support and custody. So I feel I am able to help in that way without devoting too much time [laughs]. LB: [Laughs] She’s saying without getting into family. DK: Yes, without getting into the nuts and bolts of family law. So for me it’s the best of both worlds. LB: Which is why you got a job at Harvard. Shows how smart you are! Trading places? LB: I don’t have anything about my job I don’t like right now. I think there are volunteer things I would love to do, but like every other aspect of your life, it’s all about time management. I don’t have the time to do that, but in terms of my job itself I wouldn’t trade it. DK: I wouldn’t trade places. It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to be able to set my own hours, to have the flexibility for someone in my situation balancing parenting and day job, and the clinic staff is so accommodating. Though I think the job of the staff is great and I admire the people who do it at Legal Aid. Continued on page 41 May/June 2017 SAN DIEGO LAWYER 19
Published on Jun 1, 2017
Inside this Issue: Giving Back & Getting More - 2017 Service Award Winners; California State Bar at a Crossroads; Wellness: From Medication...