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The firm encourages all attorneys to find a way to participate in pro bono projects and community service. DWT is a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and commits to providing 3% of its annual hours to pro bono. Individual lawyers doing pro bono work can earn billable credit up to 8% of their annual billable-hours goal.

For example: DWT was instrumental in establishing the King County Bar Association’s legal services program for the homeless about 20 years ago, and our Seattle office has a longtime relationship with the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC). This is just one part of DWT’s firmwide efforts to protect the homeless.

Seattle Team Helps Provide Post-Conviction Relief on Behalf of the Innocence Network
Two of DWT’s Seattle lawyers, Taylor Ball and Ross Siler, submitted an amicus brief to the Montana Supreme Court on behalf of the Innocence Network, seeking to reverse a district court decision denying a petition for post-conviction relief on behalf of Robert Wilkes.

Mr. Wilkes was accused of deliberate homicide after his son tragically died while in his care. His conviction turned largely on a diagnosis of abusive head trauma (also known as shaken baby syndrome). Our brief focused on recent legal and scientific developments regarding problems with the use of abusive head trauma as a basis for conviction. The Montana Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision in 2015 and instructed it to reconsider Mr. Wilkes’ claims of insufficient evidence and ineffective assistance of counsel.

Seattle Team Aids Microenterprises, Small Nonprofits, and Low-Income Entrepreneurs
Nonprofit organizations and small businesses don’t always have access to vital advice and support. In 2003, attorneys in Seattle got together to form an organization, Wayfind, that would help provide legal services for these clients. David Lawson, an associate in our tax-exempt organizations practice, currently has a seat on the Wayfind board and regularly devotes time to Wayfind-related matters, as does Maya Yamazaki, a frequent volunteer and trainer whose practice focuses on IP, media and technology law.

In September 2015, Wayfind joined forces with the Seattle Office of Economic Development and numerous other partners to organize a special Small Business Legal Clinic for clients who are at or below 80% of King County’s median income.

Seattle Associate Helps Domestic Violence Victims Make Their Best Case for a Protection Order
As a 2015 volunteer for the Domestic Violence Impact Project (DVIP) in Seattle, Lauren Dorsett helps victims of domestic abuse obtain protection orders against abusers. Every month, DVIP provides in-shelter legal clinics during which survivors can meet with a volunteer attorney to get help preparing a petition for a protection order, a renewal for a pre-existing protection order, or an appeal from denial of protection orders. The purpose of the clinic is to educate and prepare survivors to go into court pro se. Dorsett helps them gather evidence, draft declarations and tell their stories. Dorsett says she finds it “beyond rewarding” to be able to help.

Seattle Partner Aids Homeowner in Qualifying for Low-Interest Home-Improvement Loan
Clayton Graham stepped in to help a client with an unusual real-property issue. The client was unable to qualify for a low-interest home-improvement loan from King County, Washington, to complete repairs to her leaky roof and other critical maintenance items affecting her home. The county initially denied the loan in 2015 because the Torrens Act registration for the property had not been updated to include several conveyances over the prior 50 years.

Graham, with help from paralegal Annette Gililland, was successful in getting the court order and approvals necessary to reregister the land in the client’s name. There were a number of twists and turns due to the amount of time that had passed since the initial “gap” arose on the title, and the number of transactions affecting the property in the prior half-century. The client’s home-repair loan can now move forward.

Seattle Lawyers Help Young Sisters in a Distressed Family
Joseph Hoag represented a guardian ad litem in a heartbreaking family matter. There were three legal actions occurring with the family—a family law case, a criminal case and a dependency proceeding. Initially, Gillian Murphy worked up the dependency case and appeared at several hearings. When that action was delayed pending the criminal trial, Murphy passed the case to Hoag to go on parental leave. In the course of the dependency proceedings, Hoag was able to keep the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), who was representing the best interests of two young girls, from throwing in the towel, which she was close to doing due to opposing counsel’s tactics. The CASA was a valuable advocate for the children.

The girls were exhibiting strange medical symptoms. They lived with their mother who was a nurse. Their father was a drug addict. The mother told hospital staff that each girl suffered from a host of medical problems, from seizures to sleep apnea to hypertension. Most often though, she claimed her daughters weren’t eating. She convinced doctors to surgically implant a feeding tube in her older daughter. Both girls were put on powerful medications typically inappropriate for children their age and placed on strict limited diets. It turned out none of this was necessary because the mother was causing the problems and manufacturing the symptoms. This was eventually discovered when the parent of a child in the next hospital bed observed the mother repeatedly forcing her daughter to vomit.

Both girls were placed in protective custody that day. The father had rehabilitated and wanted to be a responsible parent. It took a number of hearings and proceedings for the father to win custody in 2015.

In the dependency action, Hoag attended mediation and participated in settlement negotiations and court hearings. He collaborated with the attorney general and the father’s attorney. The most memorable moment was when the judge entered the order for the father in the maternal medical abuse case—it was such a good outcome for the children. The mother was eventually tried on charges of medical child abuse. Acknowledging that she would likely be convicted, she entered an Alford plea and avoided a prison term. Hoag says he has always wanted to do pro bono work for families to protect them from abuse and manipulation.

Seattle Associates Help Victim of Narcotraficantes Pursue a New Life
Shortly after arriving at DWT in 2015, two new associates, Tim Han and Omar Vasquez, volunteered to work with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a nonprofit organization that partners attorneys with unaccompanied immigrant and refugee youth who are facing deportation proceedings. KIND paired them with Ernesto, now 18 years old, who came from Northern Mexico as a victim of human trafficking.

After a few hearings in Immigration Court and a cooperative interview Ernesto gave to special agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, we are proud to report that Ernesto was granted Continued Presence (which is a temporary legal status), work authorization and a Social Security number. Now, with the support of a local community organization, Ernesto lives in an apartment just outside Seattle, where he attends high school and works a nearly full-time job to pay rent and provide for himself.
Davis Wright Tremaine Repeats as Innovative Law Firm of the Year