Missouri lawyers, firm receive recognition for pro bono work
Each year, The Missouri Bar presents Pro Bono Publico Awards to acknowledge lawyers and legal groups who provide outstanding legal work to those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Each year, The Missouri Bar presents Pro Bono Publico Awards to acknowledge lawyers and legal groups who provide outstanding legal work to those who cannot afford a lawyer. This year, four lawyers and one law firm received the honor.
Jordan T. Ault is a partner in the Jefferson City office of Husch Blackwell. In addition to his product liability practice, he has been devoted to pro bono work in a class action lawsuit representing offenders who were sentenced in Missouri to life without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as minors. In addition, he recently launched the firm’s Nonprofit Organizations and Religious Institutions team through which he regularly advises nonprofits and churches in a variety of legal areas. Ault is a past chair of the bar’s Access to Justice Committee and has handled scores of pro bono cases through the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri Volunteer Lawyers Program, Accountants for the Arts, Saint Louis University School of Law’s juvenile criminal defense clinic, and Husch Blackwell’s legal intake program with Grace Hill Settlement House.
“When I was in college, I took a course on poverty and welfare,” says Ault. “I knew I could not choose a career that did not allow me to serve others while working to promote justice and fairness.”
For 20 years, Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm in Kansas City has maintained a distinct pro bono program. In 2018 alone, the firm’s four business immigration attorneys and two law clerks provided legal representation to 29 clients at no cost in cases involving rape, domestic violence, domestic assault, sexual assault and stalking. The firm has also provided free legal services for I-360 petitions based on Domestic Violence Under the Violence Against Women Act, U Visa petitions, applications for green cards, naturalization applications, requests for replacement green cards and citizenship certificates for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In 2019, the entire firm traveled to Texas for a week to assist immigrant women and children in preparation for credible fear/asylum interviews and hearings. The firm also provides on-going training to lawyers and shelter advocates on how to recognize, triage and work with attorneys on these cases.
“Mira Mdivani and her firm have been tenacious pro bono advocates,” said one reviewer. “They do great work year after year and are highly deserving of the recognition.”
In 2018, Husch Blackwell lawyer Theresa Mullineaux provided 548.7 pro bono hours to clients in need. While her day-to-day practice focused on commercial litigation, she dedicates significant time to representing low-income families in St. Louis, non-profits and indigent clients with a variety of legal issues in state and federal court. She, like Ault, is also part of a team representing prisoners sentenced to life without parole as juveniles following a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision which disallowed such sentences.
According to her nominator, “She is truly one of Husch Blackwell’s pro bono champions.”
John Spencer practices with Tieman, Spencer & Hicks, LLC in St. Joseph. In 2018, through the Military Legal Assistance Team of the Missouri Attorney General's Office, he provided pro bono legal representation for two active duty Air Force service members assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base. Each of these cases were accepted on an emergency basis.
“Mr. Spencer's selfless service reflects great credit upon himself, his firm and the entire Missouri Bar,” says his nominator.
Misty Watson, a principal with Danna McKitrick law firm in Clayton, focuses her practice on estate planning and probate matters, but her volunteer work includes service for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s Volunteer Lawyers Program, among other area organizations.
“My clients walk into my office nervous about the future and afraid of the legal ramifications of their particular circumstances,” says Watson. “I feel the work I do, especially for my pro bono clients, gives them peace of mind in a way that no other profession could.”
The firm—along with Ault, Mullineaux, Spencer and Watson—will be honored Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, during the Missouri Bar Foundation & Public Service Awards Luncheon at The Missouri Bar’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Branson.