The Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Helping Others Through Leadership

Solange Ritchie -- 2014 Recipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Solange RitchieThe State Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Section has chosen Orange County’s Solange Ritchie to receive the 2014 Myer J. Sankary Attorney of the Year Award.  In addition to her practice with her husband, Steven R. Young, handling civil litigation with an emphasis on “last minute trials,” Ms. Ritchie has been an active member of the Orange County Bar Association (“OCBA”), California Women Lawyers (“CWL”), Orange County Women Lawyers (“OCWL”), Orange County Asian American Bar Association (“OCAABA”), and the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association (“OCTLA”).  This year’s nominees were a group whose histories of involvement and achievement exemplified the ideals of leadership of the profession and service to the community that the Award is meant to recognize.  Ms. Ritchie stood out for the depth of her dedication to the community and professional work to which she has been devoted since her admission to practice in 1998, and the prodigious amount of that work.

A native of Jamaica, Ms. Ritchie witnessed a breakdown of social order, increases in criminal activity, and deprivations of justice with the election of a Socialist president.  Her mother created a charitable foundation to help young people with special needs, including Ms. Ritchie’s brother who has Down syndrome.  Ms. Ritchie immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 11, and ever since she has been dedicated to the cause of justice.  “After what I experienced, I have always wanted to help the people who needed to be heard.  I get a lot of satisfaction from beating the big boys.”

Ms. Ritchie has served on OCWLA’s Board of Directors since 2002, and as its President in 2007.  Teresa McQueen, an OCWLA member and former member of the Solo and Small Firm Section Executive Committee, says, “I just love Solange.  She is a very hard worker, and she does amazing things.  Even after she’s finished the officer track, she stays involved.”  Neda Mansoorian, CWL President, describes her personal admiration and fondness for Ms. Ritchie “as a kind, thoughtful, and hardworking colleague.”  She praises Ms. Ritchie’s work “promoting diversity, equality, and access to justice.”

Ms. Ritchie has served since 2003 on the Board of Directors of OCAABA, and as its President in 2008.  She has been a member of the OCBA Board of Directors since 2005, co-chaired OCBA’s Committee on Diversity and Equal Justice from 2007 through 2010, and served as Chair of its Resolutions Committee in 2010.  Ms. Ritchie has served on the Board of Directors of the OCBA Charitable Fund since 2008, and on the OCTLA Board of Directors over that same time.  She has also served since 2008 on the Board of El Viento Foundation, providing educational and leadership opportunities for underprivileged children living in the Orange County community of Huntington Beach.

The Myer J. Sankary Award is not the first recognition Ms. Ritchie has received for her exceptional work.  In 2008, the National Organization of Women Business Owners selected her as a Remarkable Woman of the Year.  In 2009, OCWLA honored her as Attorney of the Year. And last year, her alma mater, Western State University College of Law, which she attended while working as a paralegal and where she was, in 1993, Editor in Chief of the Law Review, inducted Ms. Ritchie into its Alumni Hall of Fame.  The Solo and Small Firm Section is proud to give its Myer J. Sankary Attorney of the Year Award for 2014 to Solange Ritchie.

The award will be presented on Friday evening, September 12, 2014, at the Section’s reception at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, the site of this year’s State Bar Annual Meeting.

Sally Elkington -- 2013 Recipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

The State Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Section chose Alameda County’s Sally Elkington to receive the 2013 Myer J. Sankary Attorney of the Year Award.  The Section presents the Award each year to someone who has shown dedication to public service, given her time and energies to promote access to justice, and demonstrated leadership to the legal community. Ms. Elkington exemplifies these ideals.

“I get motivation from working with people who have no hope and trying, with my work, to give them some hope,” Sally says.  “If it’s not getting done or someone is not being served, then I want to do something to help.”

Sally maintains a very active solo practice representing debtors in bankruptcy, and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation (VLSC) of the Alameda County Bar Association, where, in addition to representing the underserved pro bono, she mentors and assists other volunteers.  Sally also provides pro bono representation to renters in complex Landlord-Tenant matters involving habitability issues.

Ann Wassam, the Alameda County Bar Association’s Executive Director, says, “Sally epitomizes the type of attorney this Award was meant to showcase - leading, mentoring and helping others in the legal community - yet doing so without the support of a larger law firm.”

In 2012, Sally served as president of the Alameda County Bar Association, and played a vital role in developing and running VLSC’s month long Bankruptcy Form Completion Clinic, in which volunteer attorneys help pro per litigants file for bankruptcy.  During her term as County Bar President, Sally also helped establish a long range strategic planning process for the organization.  This year, Sally was appointed to the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Committee, one of the most time-intensive volunteer positions in the State Bar.

United States Bankruptcy Judge William J. Lafferty, III, strongly supports Sally’s selection as the Attorney of the Year “not based solely on her zeal and energy in doing good works, as impressive as those qualifies are.  Of equal value,” according to Judge Lafferty, “Sally is just a superb lawyer, who represents her clients with great skill and ardor, and who has earned the well-deserved confidence and trust of myself and my colleagues on the bankruptcy bench in Oakland for her consistently excellent work in our courts.”

Sally traces her devotion to public service from her mother.  “My mom was a single parent, who was a ‘home room mom’ and volunteered countless hours.  I saw firsthand the difference she made in people’s lives, and I try to follow in her footsteps.”
The law is Sally’s third career.  Her undergraduate degree is in physical education, but instead of teaching she entered the business world.  Later, Sally taught in junior college, and obtained her Masters Degree.  She then decided to pursue a career in law and attended the New College of Law in San Francisco.  Throughout her life and careers, however, Sally says one thing has remained constant: “I have always strived to make a difference.”

The Solo and Small Firm Section recognized Sally Elkington’s extraordinary career and accomplishments, when we presented her with the Myer J. Sankery Award at a special cocktail reception during the State Bar Annual Meeting in San Jose on Friday evening, October 13, 2013.

Kevin Adamson -- 2012 Recipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Kevin AdamsonThe Myer J. Sankary Award is presented annually by the Solo and Small Firm Section of the State Bar to an individual who has demonstrated years of faithful service and leadership to the community or to his fellow attorneys and who has contributed to the development of greater justice in a field of law. Kevin Adamson, this year’s recipient of the Myer J. Sankary Award, exemplifies these criteria.

Kevin is a solo practitioner whose practice emphasizes representing juveniles charged with criminal offenses ranging from misdemeanors to complex gang-related offenses and homicides.

For over 15 years, Kevin has served as a volunteer on the Sacramento County Bar Association’s Indigent Defense Panel Committee – an organization consisting of over 140 private criminal defense attorneys who provide conflict representation to adults and juveniles charged with criminal conduct who are unable to afford retained counsel. For the past seven years Kevin has chaired this panel. In this capacity, Kevin has devoted countless hours, on a volunteer basis, to develop and implement standards and policies to ensure that all clients represented by members of the panel receive high-quality and cost-effective representation. Indeed, the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court for Sacramento County has praised Kevin for establishing a meaningful peer-review process, including extensive qualifications review for new lawyers wishing to serve on the panel.

Kevin also serves on the Sacramento County Bar Association’s Indigent Defense Appeals Committee, which reviews appeals of decisions made by the County regarding panel membership, discipline of panel members and compensation to panel members.

Appointed  by the Director of Sacramento County Conflict Criminal Defenders in 2006, Kevin has served as this organization’s Lead Juvenile Attorney. In this capacity, Kevin acts as the Director’s representative for all Juvenile Court matters and committees that deal with the substantive, administrative and policy issues at the Juvenile Court.

But Kevin’s service to the legal community and the broader community extends beyond his field of practice. For example, he has coached high school Mock Trial and Moot Court teams and has also served as a judge in these competitions. Kevin’s excellence, dedication, leadership and community involvement have already been recognized in his home county, where he was the 2006 recipient of the Sacramento County Bar Association’s President’s Award for his dedication and service to the criminal justice profession and the 2007 recipient of their Distinguished Service Award for his longstanding leadership in and service to the Sacramento County Bar Association.
It is with great pride that the Solo and Small Firm Section of the State Bar follows Sacramento County in recognizing Kevin’s accomplishments, leadership and service.

The Solo and Small Firm Section presented the Myer J. Samkery Award to Mr. Adamson at a special cocktail reception during the State Bar Annual Meeting in Monterey on Friday evening October 12, 2012.

"[Kevin Adamson’s] contributions and dedication to both his clients and the greater legal community are unsurpassed... [he is both] tireless and inspiring..."
-- S
tacy Boulware Eurie, Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court, Sacramento Superior Court.

" [Kevin] is recognized by judges, public and private defenders, and others in the criminal justice community as an ethical, professional, and dedicated leader, and an exceptional attorney. . . Selecting Kevin Adamson to join the distinguished previous recipients of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award, will continue the tradition of excellence that this award stands for..."
June D. Coleman, Sacramento County Bar Association President.

"[Kevin] epitomizes what a lawyer should be. ... He is a spirited advocate for his clients and their best interests, while always maintaining the highest ethical standards, professional decorum, and polite respect for the court, staff, and his adversary."
-- Frank C. Meyer, Supervising Deputy District Attorney, Sacramento County Office of the District Attorney

Douglas W. Otto -- 2011 Recipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Douglas W. Otto is a civil and criminal trial lawyer in private practice in Long Beach, who has tried over 100 jury trials to verdict. He has served as President of the Long Beach Bar Association and as a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Board of Trustees. In 1996-97, he co-chaired the American Bar Association’s Committee on Victims Rights and regularly provides pro bono representation to indigent defendants. He recently served a three-year term as a member of the California State Bar’s Access to Justice Commission. He received the Long Beach Bar Association Lawyer of the Year Award in 2005.

 Russell S. Roeca -- 2010 Receipitent Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Russell RoecaThe Solo and Small Firm Section of the State Bar of California selected Russell S. Roeca for  the 2010 Myer Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award. Presented annually to a sole practitioner or small firm lawyer who has demonstrated years of faithful service and leadership to the community or fellow attorneys, the Award recognizes those who have exercised notable leadership or made a contribution to the development of greater justice in a field of law. Mr. Roeca has earned the Award with a career of service, leadership and devotion to social justice. The Solo and Small Firm Section will present the Award to Mr. Roeca at a special reception during the State Bar Annual Meeting. Please join us in honoring him at the Stevenson Terrace of the Portola Hotel on Friday evening, September 24, 2010, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Roeca is the Past President of the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), having served as President in 2009. For more than 25 years, he has served his profession and the community, believing that “as lawyers, we’re obligated to do more than just make money.”  Mr. Roeca also served on the State Bar’s Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2004, representing District 4. He continues to serve on the State Bar's Council on Access & Fairness and chairs that Council’s Judiciary Committee and is an active member of BASF's Conference of Delegates Committee. He is serving his third term as a member of the State Bar’s Committee on Professional Responsibility Insurance and is a member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Professional Liability.

In 2000, Mr. Roeca founded the three person law firm of Roeca Hass Hager LLP, in San Francisco, where he specializes in professional liability, real estate, health care, insurance and related commercial and business litigation. Though he had practiced in large defense firms for some 20 years before that, he says small firm practice "made me a better lawyer."

Mr. Roeca is a staunch advocate of diversity in the legal profession. A member of the BASF Diversity Task Force for almost20 years, he served on the BASF Board of Directors from 1994 to 1998, during which time BASF, in conjunction with the San Francisco Board of Education, established the Law Academy Classroom to Career program, and each summer Mr. Roeca's firm employs a Law Academy intern.

Mr. Roeca frequently serves as a judicial arbitrator appointed by the San Francisco Superior Court, as a panelist with BASF’s early settlement program and as a judge pro tem in the Superior Court of Alameda County.

In addition to his service to the profession, Mr. Roeca has been active in the San Francisco community. In 1996, then-Mayor Willie Brown appointed Mr. Roeca to the San Francisco Fire Commission, where he served for more than eight years, including a term as Vice President of the Commission. He has served on the board of the Bay Area Non-Partisan Alliance and on the Human Rights Campaign Board of Trustees.

"I have personally witnessed Russ Roeca’s many contributions during his career," says James Donato, Mr. Roeca's predecessor as BASF President, "and have seen how they have made a positive difference in the lives of students and the legal community, all while balancing a successful law practice in a small firm."  

Patricia L. McCabe -- 2009 Receipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Patricia L. McCabeFormerly a partner in a personal injury litigation firm, Patricia L.McCabe has been a sole practitioner for the last 13 years, specializing in representing the disabled. She practices throughout California and other jurisdictions in United States District Court and before governmental agencies, handling Social Security claims, Medicare claims, Medi-Cal claims, litigation involving disability insurance policies, Veteran’s benefits, and California State disability and unemployment benefits. She handles matters at all levels of the administrative process from application through exhaustion of the administrative appeal and filing of litigation in United States District Court.

Her choice of practice suggests Ms. McCabe's compassion and devotion to public service. Her history of service is the proof.

A graduate of Franklin Pierce Law Center, Ms. McCabe has a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology and a Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology. She is a Past President of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association. She has served on the Los Angeles County Bar Association Board of Trustees and is a member of LACBA's Social Security section executive committee. She is a Past Chair of the Executive Committee of the Solo and Small Firm Section of the State Bar of California.

Now serving her 14th year as a delegate to the Conference of California Bar Associations, Ms. McCabe is also a member of the House of Delegates to the American Bar Association. She has written resolutions which have passed the Conference of Delegates and been proposed to the California Legislature.

Ms. McCabe was a member of the editorial team and a contributing author to the California Guide to Opening and Managing a Law Office, published by the State Bar in 2008. And she frequently lectures for the State Bar, the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives and other bar associations.

While some might get anxious just reading about all the things she does, Ms. McCabe views them as ways to reduce stress. "The practice of law is extremely stressful," she says, "and nothing good comes from trying to power through stress. Volunteering in the community, providing pro bono legal services and working with other lawyers to better the profession bring positive factors to your life and balance things out."

A firm believer in both the duties and the benefits of giving back to the community, Ms. McCabe provides pro bono legal services to low income individuals, the homeless, and veterans. She has received the American Bar Association’s 2008 Difference Makers Award for pro bono service and the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives’ 2004 Annual Pro Bono Award. She volunteers her services for Public Counsel, the Disability Legal Rights Center, the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives, Neighborhood Legal Services and HALSA, the HIV and AIDS Legal Services Alliance. She also serves on the Boards of Directors for San Fernando Valley Mental Health Clinics, Inc., the Valley Community Legal Foundation, and for Neighborhood Legal Services, which is among Los Angeles County's larges legal aid programs.

"Patty is a very giving, caring and concerned person," says Anne Adams, a professional colleauge and longtime friend of Ms. McCabe. "She has been extremely supportive of the charities and bar activities she's involved in.”

Patricia McCabe is the deserving recipient of the 2009 Myer Sankary Award and will be presented her award at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the State Bar of California in San Diego on Friday, September 11, 2009. For more information, see The State Bar Annual Meeting.

Cheryl L. Hicks -- 2008 Receipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Cheryl L. HicksCheryl L. Hicks, is a private practice attorney in Oakland, specializing in juvenile dependency, family law, and plaintiffs personal injury law. A graduate of Boalt Hall, she is a past chair of the Civil Court Appointed Attorneys Advisory Committee.

Cheryl Hicks believes in giving back. Back to her community. Back to her fellow attorneys. “[M]any of us still find the time, a few minutes here and an hour there, to give a little something back”. This award recognizes the fact that Ms. Hicks is a giver, not a taker. That despite her devotion to her own practice, she makes the time to recognize her colleagues and to ensure that her community is represented.

Cheryl Hicks and other Past Presidents of ACBAMs. Hicks has achieved balance. She recognizes that the practice of law is a stressful profession. Which is understandable as she maintains a heavy caseload in juvenile dependency in addition to providing services on the Alameda County Bar Association (ACBA) Civil Court Appointed Attorney Program (CCAAP) and acting on the oversight committee for that program.. And while that would be enough for most, Ms. Hicks is also the immediate past president of the Alameda Bar Association (she is pictured above with other past presidents), she served on the ACBA’s Board of Directors for six years and she provides leadership on the ACBA’s Judicial Mentoring Project.

“Being active in your local bar association is a wonderful way for solo practitioners to connect with other lawyers and to help develop business.” When it comes to Ms. Hicks, being “active” is an understatement. In nominating her, Ann Wassam, Executive Director of the Alameda County Bar Association, highlights some of the many examples of Ms. Hicks’ service to the legal community. These include acting as an informal mentor to countless juvenile dependency lawyers which in turn improves the quality of representation available for low-income residents, and serving on the CCAAP oversight committee to deal with issues such as fee disputes, rule revisions and contract negotiations with the local court.

In 2007, in response to State Bar President Shelly Sloan’s focus on promoting civility, Ms. Hicks set forth guidelines for ACBA members in order to deal with what she recognized as a continuing problem. “When we lose our cool in court or with opposing counsel, we cannot be effective advocates. The Court and our colleagues will not be listening to our compelling legal arguments if we are presenting them in a demeaning and angry manner.” Balance is the key. Zealous advocacy must be tempered with professional decorum.

Cheryl Hicks sets a very high standard. In her words, “We have a responsibility to the communities we live in and to society as a whole to assist with shaping the world we want to live in, and use our knowledge and education to be leaders.”

Ms. Hicks is both an excellent lawyer and an example of the best a sole practitioner has to offer to the legal community.

Anne C. Adams -- 2007 Receipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

Anne C. AdamsAnne C. Adams Integrates Big Business Practices Into Small Firm Section
By Nancy B. Goldstein

Anne C. Adams is a business and family law solo practitioner based in Canoga Park. She represents clients in the Los Angeles area courts who are sued for consumer debts. Her office provides legal services to clients including hardship payment plans and debt negotiation services statewide.

Ms. Adams served as president of the Valley Community Legal Foundation of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, which provides scholarships to students who intend to pursue careers in law enforcement, firefighting, public safety or a legal profession. The Foundation funds lawrelated projects including providing legal information to the public, court advocates to domestic violence victims and legal clinics for low-income valley residents.

“I’ve known and worked with Anne in numerous professional contexts throughout the past years,” Solo and Small Firm Section Chair Roberta Burnette says. “She is selfless in her dedication to her clients – she brings an energy and a focus that any client would be lucky to have in counsel.”

Ms. Adams is a former chair of the Executive Committee of the Solo and Small Firm Section of the State Bar of California. She has always given her time selflessly to make the lives of California small firm practitioners easier.

“Anne is unfailingly innovative in her approach to the small firm practice sector in California,” Ms. Burnette, principal of Thousand Oak’s Burnette Law Firm, says. “No one pushes forward with new ideas and new programs to benefit California small firm practitioners the way Anne has demonstrated again and again.”

Several years ago, Ms. Adams negotiated and implemented a joint venture program of discounts for small firm lawyers at the Continuing Education of the Bar office. Attorneys who use the discount program save significant money and earn necessary continuing legal education credits.

“The CEB program is easy to use and the educational seminars are outstanding,” Richard Kaplan, past chair of the Section, says. “Anne is outstanding at figuring out what smaller firm lawyers need and making it happen.”

In recognizing the difficulties that face solos and small firm practitioners, Ms. Adams, who holds both Juris Doctorate and Masters in Business Administration degrees, has spearheaded efforts to make information available to attorneys in the Section. She is a frequent speaker on law office management processes.

“Anne’s presentations at the State Bar Annual Meeting are always mobbed,” Lisa Miller, Section chair-elect and editor of BIG NEWS, says. “I frequently share the dais with Anne, and the audiences always clamor for her unique handouts on law office processes and managing the bottom line.”

True to her signature cutting-edge approach to volunteer service, Anne is currently working on an exciting project that will bring educational Webinars to the legal profession at very reasonable prices. Her committee has three Webinars in the pipeline at the moment, including the three-part presentation “Business Development Boot Camp.”

“Boot Camp” will address strategic marketing techniques for smaller firms, securing free media exposure through public relations, and paid media placements through free and low-cost advertising. The Webinar includes practical handouts and worksheets to help guide any sole practitioner or small firm through a year of developing a useable business development plan.

“Anne has always exhibited the highest degree of commitment to the best interests of the Section’s constituents,” Myer J. Sankary, a full-time neutral in Los Angels and the attorney after whom the award was named, says. “Her energy and insight has made a huge difference in the ability of the Solo Section to grow.”

Mr. Sankary was the inaugural recipient of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year award. Mr. Sankary is credited with revitalizing the Solo and Small Firm Section, growing it from less than a half-dozen members to it current ranks of almost 2,000 members. He continues to provide significant leadership to the Section through his membership on the executive committee in advisor status.

Immediate past Section Chair Patricia McCabe has worked with Ms. Adams in many capacities over many years. Ms. McCabe has held leadership posts with both the Solo Section of the State Bar and the San Fernando Valley Bar Association.

“Anne has been a constant source of support and advice to me throughout my chairwomanship of the Section,” Ms. McCabe says. “She has a tremendous body of knowledge regarding serving our legal community as well as the larger community in California.”

One cannot think of faithful service and not think of Anne C. Adams. She embodies all of the attributes that the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year award is intended to honor.

Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award

The Myer J. Sankary Attorney of the Year Award is presented to an individual who has exercised notable leadership or shown a contribution to the development of greater justice in a field of law. The award is presented annually to an individual who is a sole practitioner or a member of a small firm and who has demonstrated years of faithful service and leadership to the community or his or her fellow attorneys.

How to Nominate

Nominations for the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award are accepted year-round, with a final deadline of May 31 for consideration in the current year.

Submissions must include:

  • Name and complete contact information for both the nominee and the nominating party
  • Nominee’s short CV, resume, or bio, and e-photo
  • Three paragraphs detailing the nominee’s activities embodying the tenets of the Myer J. Sankary Lawyer of the Year Award, including, inter alia, service to the legal profession, service to the larger community, leadership posts, special projects, and any other activities that the nominating party believes exhibit the qualities encompassed in the award.

Forward nominations to John Buelter, Section Coordinator for the Solo and Small Firm Section. All nominations are kept confidential.

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