Grantee Spotlight

Thank you, Susan Arney!

By Kristin Parker

It’s official. After 12 years as Executive Director of the Clark County Volunteer Lawyer Program, Susan Arney retired on April 7, 2017, leaving some big shoes to fill in Clark County. Under her leadership CCLVP has grown from 50 to 230 volunteer lawyers, who help staff several legal clinics to address the needs of veterans, homeless, dependency issues, and family law for Spanish-speakers across Clark County.

Susan Arney pauses for a picture before facilitating a training with civil legal aid advocates.

Susan came to the legal aid community after a successful career in the printing business and later had her own consulting company to set up computerized accounting systems. Susan also served thirteen years on the board of the Private Industry Council board, a workforce development organization.

Susan is especially proud of helping to bring pro bono programs into the Access to Justice (ATJ) Board’s statewide planning process. “The ATJ community has many players, big and small, and the new Plan meets the needs of everyone. One goal I’m excited about is the educational component. The 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study identified legal literacy as a big issue for low income people, and the new statewide plan includes increasing education and outreach – an achievable goal regardless of program size.”

Susan said as Executive Director, she had to learn how to articulate her passion and reach new audiences. She credits her involvement at the statewide level to the leadership skills she learned at the Washington State Equal Justice Community Leadership Academy. “The Leadership Academy has made me better at telling the story of the VLP and increase funding.”

Being an ED is no easy feat and has required Susan to perform many different duties…budgeting, grant writing, office management of employees, space and equipment, appearing in Court, training volunteer attorneys, dealing with various kinds of clients that walk through the door, developing and implementing new programs, fundraising, and coordinating attorneys to volunteer and staff clinics.” – Kristen Parcher, District Court Commissioner, Clark County District Court

The key to a successful VLP is recruitment. Under Susan’s leadership the CCVLP has grown from 50 to 230 volunteer lawyers. CCVLP board member, Karen Campbell, Attorney with Northwest Justice Project said with a chuckle, “Susan once told me she is ‘always selling’. Once she traveled to a Mexican Restaurant in [neighboring] Klickitat County where their bar association was meeting. Even though they serve another county, that didn’t stop her from recruiting volunteers for Clark County!”  Susan explained how she recruits new volunteer lawyers. “For new lawyers, I tell them they will have great training and mentorship with an experienced lawyer. For experienced lawyers, I tell them simply, ‘It’ll feel good!’ And with only a four hour commitment per year, it seems a small price to pay.”

Susan has also had a major impact in helping other civil legal aid organizations adopt new technology. In 2007, LFW introduced an online case management system. “Susan was an early adopter of the Legal Server Case Management program and she quickly became an expert. We traveled around the state training other programs and encouraged many others to use it,” said Andrea Axel, Director of Grants. “Susan is a matter-of-fact doer.”

Thanks for all the years of services, Susan, and best of luck to you on your next adventure!