Alison Jane Colvin (Class of 2001)
During my time at NESL I was not involved in any clinic work because I worked a 40 hour week at Harcourt General; however, I did volunteer a couple of days a month at the shelter for Support Committee for Battered Women in Waltham. I began volunteering at the shelter a few months after I moved to Boston and continued until I left. During the summer I was able to volunteer more frequently than during the school year, but my commitment never wavered. I enrolled in law school at the age of 50 and had worked as a legal assistant (in varying capacities) since 1989.
My former work was in food and beverage and I decided to return to school to finish my degree when I worked as a cocktail waitress in Reno at Circus Circus Casino and became very involved in the unions (AFL-CIO, HERE). I worked with the union attorney doing research and sat at the negotiating table. I was extremely fortunate to meet and work briefly with, Caesar Chavez, when we were attempting to organize the maids. That work politicized me as never before and I returned to school to finish my undergraduate degree and began working in the legal field. Most of my work has been in the field of domestic violence and through non profits. I am aware of the constant struggle (both emotional and financial) that non profit work can and does bring, but more than that, I am aware of the great joy that comes from working in this field. The legal profession is mysterious to those who are educated and the challenge to the disadvantaged is virtually Herculean. I hope that my agency can help to aid the indigent in the process of obtaining justice.
Washoe Legal Services runs a "hotline" and we route and answer legal questions from the indigent community. We focus primarily on landlord-tenant, consumer, domestic relations, domestic violence, and child abuse cases. We have a full time attorney working in the area of domestic relations and another working on child abuse and neglect cases. We also do some HUD work and assist in loss mitigation matters for those people who losing their homes due to foreclosure and we assist in wrongful termination matters. We work closely with the fair housing agency, Silver State Fair Housing and litigate fair housing matters. We have a full time attorney who represents victims of domestic violence in divorce and custody matters as well as extensions and enforcements of protective orders. I have just recently gone to the Board of County Commissioners who approved an increase in filing fees that will be directed to our program and we will be bringing on a full time attorney to take abuse and neglect cases. We will act as the child's attorney in those matters. I am extremely excited about this opportunity to assist abused children. WLS also conducts regular clinics in divorce, bankruptcy and information for first time home buyers (the latter is in both Spanish and English). We conduct outreaches to Nevada Hispanic Services and to more remote area of Incline Village for victims of domestic violence since we find that both groups find it difficult to access legal services. The agency is also part of several task forces, including the Washoe County Domestic Violence Task Force. Washoe Legal Services through its board of directors and staff works to identify the needs in this area and bring litigation and/or advocate in the arenas that will positively impact the community. I am also fortunate to have as a part time attorney, Jon Sasser, who is the former managing attorney for Western Massachusetts Legal Services (77-82) who works for this agency and is also the Statewide Advocacy Coordinator which enables the legal service agencies of Nevada to have a voice for the poor in the legislature. Volunteer Lawyers of Washoe County merged in Washoe Legal Services on April 1, 2001 leaving Washoe Legal Services as the coordinating agency for pro bono efforts in this community. VLWC traditionally focused on placement of family law and domestic violence matters, but we are now expanding our services and hope to include consumer, landlord/tenant, corporate work for 501(c)(3) entities and guardianships in our pro bono work by the end of the year.