Pro Bono Spotlight
From the Multnomah Lawyer, January 2019 Volume 65, Number 1
by Anthony Blake
YLS Pro Bono Committee
Early in life, James O’Connor realized he had an overarching desire to help people. He went to Georgetown Law School with the intent of using the law as a tool for change. After graduating in the Ronald Reagan era, O’Connor found himself searching for a job that allowed him to assist individuals and couples in finding solutions to the issues that many families face. So, he traveled to a rural part of Arkansas where he worked as an attorney for Legal Aid of Arkansas. His next stop was Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati. At each of these locations, he had the freedom to combine his education and personal experience to brainstorm new ways of approaching old problems. “My early positions allowed me to attack the cause of problems instead of just spotting the symptoms,” O’Connor said. The on-the-fly experience he gained as a budding legal aid attorney would stick with him for the rest of his career. Eventually, O’Connor walked away from the family law arena and worked as general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers in Washington, DC. There, he provided various services to the union and its 4,000 members.
In 2006, he opened his own firm, Jim O’Connor LLC , in Northeast Portland where he works as a mediator and collaborative divorce attorney. After opening his firm, O’Connor wanted to re-connect with his family law roots in a way that he does not always get to experience in his daily practice. Thousands of miles away from the Arkansas Delta where he started, O’Connor became a volunteer at Legal Aid Services of Oregon. Since then, he’s found a way to volunteer at LASO at least once a month for the last 12 years. This commitment has allowed him to provide family law assistance to almost 200 clients. “Jim’s long-term dedication to assisting low income clients is truly remarkable. Jim provides critical legal help with family law legal issues and goes above and beyond to ensure low income individuals receive assistance,” said Jill Mallery, Staff Attorney/ Pro Bono Coordinator at LASO ’s Portland office. When asked why he continues to volunteer at LASO each month, O’Connor responded, “Family is everything to the people who come through the doors of LASO. They have the same issues we all have. Their feelings are real and they’re extremely appreciative of the services volunteers provide.”
Despite decades of helping hundreds of families, O’Connor remains grateful for every opportunity, “It’s a privilege to use your education to help people.” Without dedication from volunteers like O’Connor, a majority of the families at LASO would have to face the legal system on their own. He’s a great example of what it means to remain committed to finding a way to help the less fortunate, regardless of one’s career path. “On behalf of the hundreds of clients Jim has assisted, we thank him for his commitment to increasing access to justice,” said Mallery. Our local community is lucky to have him.
To learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.