Every year, Davis Wright honors one associate attorney at the firm who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to pro bono service. This year, the Heart of Justice Award was given to Alan Galloway, a fourth-year associate in our Portland office, who provided 195 hours of pro bono legal service in 2011 alone.

Galloway joined DWT in 2008 upon graduating from Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley, and immediately began volunteering with Outside In, a nonprofit agency serving homeless youth in Portland. He has since become the manager of DWT’s weekly legal clinic at Outside In’s downtown facility. In addition, he has devoted many hours to pursuing civil liberties cases alongside the ACLU (including the lawsuit against the state of Oregon described in the previous story). He has worked on housing and land use issues as well. Galloway has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Duke University.

Have any clients at the clinic made an especially strong impression on you?
I’ve met kids who’ve been thrown out of their houses because they identified themselves as a different gender than the one they were born as. Sometimes people think, “Why are these kids homeless? They seem able-bodied.” Well, sometimes it’s because they’ve been totally unfairly rejected by their family. Another person who’s come to the clinic twice, he has had some unfortunate encounters with the police. People like him don’t view the police as I would, as someone to turn to for help. People who are homeless, or in danger of being so, are not getting the same treatment that the rest of us would expect from law enforcement. It’s important to get the perspective of someone who probably is getting a raw deal.

How has pro bono work benefited your own career?
It’s been a great way to build legal skills. Through pro bono work I’ve been able to argue summary judgment motions, question witnesses, make oral arguments— things that I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do as early in my career if it were for big paying clients. Obviously the worthiness of the organization is also important. But that’s not to say I would only do pro bono work for something I 100% agreed with. That’s not the criterion. It’s: “Do we think this is something where one side needs representation better than what they would otherwise get?” Even if our side has the weaker claim, they shouldn’t lose just because they couldn’t afford a decent lawyer.

What drew you to pro bono work?
I always knew that pro bono would be part of my practice, and I think that it is important to give back to the community by doing work beyond what we do for our paying clients. I’ve become involved in specific pro bono projects for different reasons: Some offered opportunities for dealing directly with clients, at a time when I did not have much direct client contact; some have provided opportunities for courtroom experience; and my work for the ACLU has presented interesting constitutional issues, particularly concerning free expression—which has always been of interest to me.

How does it feel to win this award?
I’m really honored. The fact that we even have this award confirms that I work for a firm that really does value this kind of work and recognizes it and doesn’t just pay lip service. That’s very affirming as far as my own career choice to practice at DWT.

What do you enjoy most about your work running the legal clinic at Outside In?
Outside In is giving people an opportunity to help themselves. It’s helping keep these kids from becoming part of the adult homeless population. At the clinic, you sit across the table from someone, get up to speed, and provide direct advice that can have immediate impact. It’s a really different experience from working on briefs, spending a lot of time on issues—which I also love.

What kinds of issues do you encounter at the legal clinic?
Sometimes it’s as simple as someone missed a court date— we take care of that and get them a new court date so they’re not going to get a warrant for their arrest and go into that whole downward spiral. There’s housing issues, people may be in an apartment that’s not really habitable, we talk to them about what the law is. There’s people who’ve been thrown out of their homes because of their sexual orientation or some other reason. We help them get back some of their possessions and understand what legal options—few, frankly—they might have. There’s child custody issues, immigration issues, people who don’t understand the public defender system or are scared about it. We can get them on the phone with a public defender right there, make them know this person’s going to help them. We enable people to deal with a legal issue they might not have dealt with if we hadn’t popped up and made it easy for them to talk to a lawyer face-to-face.

Full Summer 2012 Pro Bono Report