Law school will help four new attorneys incubate a low bono practice
December 18, 2013
Four recent graduates will have support from the law school over the next year to develop solo practices and serve clients of moderate means as the inaugural Low Bono Incubator attorneys. Eleanor Doermann '12, Olga Owens '13, Katherine Rich '13, and Bret Sachter '12 were chosen by a selection committee of law school faculty, staff, alumni, and low bono attorneys from the local community.
"We are pleased to introduce the four alumni who will be involved in our first year of the Incubator Program," said Diana Singleton, director of the Access to Justice Institute, which oversees the Incubator Program. "Each of them is committed to hanging their own shingle to serve clients with unmet legal needs."
They will receive financial assistance and guidance as they "incubate" a law practice for 12 months. A low bono practice is built around serving clients of moderate means by offering reduced-fee legal services.
Each incubator attorney will receive a stipend of $3,000 to help cover the initial costs of launching a practice and living costs; limited use of free office space at a downtown location for meetings, work, and mailing; and mentoring in managing a legal practice and their areas of practice.
The program is made possible by gifts from Dean Standish Perkins '85, a successful Seattle personal injury attorney, and The Honorable Don Horowitz, former King County Superior Court judge. Dean Annette E. Clark '89 also made a gift to the incubator in memory of her friend and law school classmate, the late Katherine Stelter '89.
Perkins, who has been in practice for 27 years, will mentor the new attorneys. He will meet with them monthly as a group and one-on-one and has offered use of space in his office for the attorneys to hold meetings.
"I wish there had been something like this when I was in law school," Perkins said. "I made a few mistakes getting started, so I'd like to help them avoid some of those. It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be exciting for them. In addition to getting to help people, it's very rewarding to successfully run a business."
More about the inaugural Incubator attorneys:
Eleanor Doermann '12 recently started Pathway Law to provide legal services to clients in the areas of elder law, benefits eligibility, and LGBT advocacy. Particularly in light of the new law governing same-sex marriage, she recognizes the need for elder law attorneys who understand how the needs of LGBT elders may be the same or different from their heterosexual counterparts.
Olga Owens '13 intends to establish The Patient Law Advocate, a solo firm that will offer counsel and advocacy for patients who have been harmed by medical care. Olga plans to focus on assisting patients and families who cannot afford standard attorney rates, whose damages are too low for a personal injury firm, or who do not (at least initially) wish to engage in litigation but need legal counsel.
Katherine Rich '13 has launched an immigration law practice focused mainly on removal defense for clients detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. She represents Spanish-speaking immigrants who are afraid to report crimes or speak up against unfair practices in housing or at work because they are afraid of deportation. She plans to open her office in close proximity to a Latino market in south King County.
Bret Sachter '12 recently launched the Sachter Law Office, PLLC, which is focused on serving moderate means clients in the areas of estate planning, family law and business formation and entity management. He was an associate at a law firm after graduation but decided he wants to run his own firm.
The new attorneys are ready for the challenge and grateful for the opportunities they will have through the program.
Rich has already represented a couple of clients, though she doesn't have a formal meeting space.
"I've been using a Denny's restaurant as my office," she said.
She, like the others, will look to Perkins and those at the law school for guidance in generating clients, setting fees, and running their own firms.
Seattle University School of Law is the only law school in the state to offer such a program. It is part of the larger Low Bono and Solo Initiative, which provides training, guidance, and resources to help new lawyers launch and maintain a solo practice.
"Seattle University School of Law is committed to supporting our graduates and meeting the legal needs of underserved communities," Dean Clark said. "This innovative Incubator Program is a way for us to do both."