As seen on TV: How lawyers impact their clients and communities
Vol. 80, No. 1 / Jan. - Feb. 2024
Sam Reeves earned her bachelor’s of journalism from The University of Missouri in 2023. Following graduation, she joined The Missouri Bar as a communications coordinator, where she produces content to even better inform the public about resources provided by The Missouri Bar and Missouri courts.
“When someone’s fighting for you, it just makes you feel like you’re not alone anymore.”
Although lawyers remain the punchline of many jokes, the truth is lawyers help find solutions to legal problems and navigate the complex legal system. In fact, many lawyers will tell you they joined the profession to help people experiencing difficult situations.
Recognizing that public perception doesn’t always favor lawyers, The Missouri Bar’s 2022-23 Leadership Academy class created public service announcements showing real stories of how lawyers have helped their clients.
Traditionally, each Leadership Academy class – a dozen lawyer leaders in their first 10 years of practice selected from nominations representing diverse aspects of the profession including diversity in gender, race, area of practice, and region within the state – carries out a service project. When the class learned about the idea for client-focused PSAs, they jumped at the opportunity to take on the project, which they titled “My Missouri Lawyer.”
The vision for “My Missouri Lawyer” included concrete examples of the work lawyers across the state do on a daily basis. When looking for participants, they reached out to members of the bar as well as organizations that provide pro bono or reduced-fee legal services.
“The PSAs created for ‘My Missouri Lawyer’ represent the diverse ways that our Leadership Academy class and lawyers in Missouri are helping our citizens,” says Erin Lueker, a member of the 2022-23 Leadership Academy class and lawyer at Sedey Harper Westhoff, PC in St. Louis. “We hope this project helps connect people with services and acknowledges the thousands of lawyers dedicated to their communities.”
One video focuses on St. Louis resident Katie – and the work her lawyer did to help her keep her house.
“Before I met my lawyer, I felt hopeless, and after I met my lawyer, I got that hope back,” Katie says in the PSA.
Katie shares how she loved going into her grandmother’s room as a child. It was filled with knickknacks, trinkets, and mementos; each item had a story, and she loved to hear her grandmother tell them.
Fast forward to 2012, when Katie retired and used the lump sum payout to purchase a cozy home of her own to fill with precious items, just as her grandmother had.
In 2014, before she had a chance to truly live in her new home, Katie began receiving letters from the IRS. She had missed one box on the paperwork that should have been checked. This simple mistake caused her to underpay the possible taxes on her retirement – and she worried she would lose her home.
“Fear just gripped me,” Katie said. “When fear grips you like that you can’t think, you can’t make logical decisions.”
Unsure of what to do, Katie reached out to a Missouri lawyer, who was able to ease her concerns and ultimately help her keep her home. They wrote an offer in compromise, which the IRS accepted. When Katie learned the letter had been accepted, she says she was finally able to breathe again. She realized she wasn’t going to lose her home and was able to get her life back.
“I’m happy to say, I love my home and now I can live in it,” Katie tells viewers.
A second PSA spotlights Raytown resident Reggie and his battle to receive disability benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
In 1972, at the age of 18, Reggie and several of his friends made the life-altering decision to join the U.S. Navy. Reggie says graduating from bootcamp was one of the proudest moments of his life. When he left the Navy, he spent 20 years suffering from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder – a time of his life he describes as “a black hole.”
In 2013, he applied for VA disability benefits but was denied. Unsure of how to navigate the process, Reggie reached out to Missouri lawyers.
“It was dark,” Reggie says in the PSA. “But when they came into my life, that’s when the sun came out and the storm clouds went away. When someone’s fighting for you, it just makes you feel like you’re not alone anymore.”
His lawyers helped him receive the disability benefits he qualified for. Just as importantly, he says they made him feel valued and comforted throughout the process, reassuring him the whole way.
“My lawyer gave me my life back,” Reggie tells viewers. This project holds a special place in the hearts of the 2022-23 Leadership Academy class as they continue to strive to better serve their clients and communities.
“It means a great deal that The Missouri Bar has a focus on showcasing the amazing work lawyers are doing for their clients and showing the public that access to legal services is paramount to our profession,” says Keegan Tinney, of Dreyer & Tinney in Joplin and a member of the 2022-23 Leadership Academy class.
The PSAs began airing on TV and radio in late 2023 and highlight MissouriLawyersHelp.org, a website produced by The Missouri Bar where the public can find a Missouri lawyer and information on various legal topics. You can view the 30-second PSAs and longer video versions at MissouriLawyersHelp.org/My-Missouri-Lawyer. Lawyers and members of the public are invited to share their own stories of client interactions via submission forms on that webpage.