Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Fall 2016, Vol. 42, No. 3 - Page 32

by Mary C. Ashcroft, Esq. Pro Bono Profile: Attorney Kevin Lumpkin When Attorney Kevin Lumpkin interviewed for a position at Sheehey Furlong and Behm, he didn’t ask about doing pro bono work. And the firm didn’t mention it. But it wasn’t long after Kevin started as the firm’s litigation association that a partner asked if he would be willing to volunteer. Judge Helen Toor was starting a rent escrow clinic, and was calling on Burlington’s larger law firms to send pro bono attorneys. Kevin said yes, became a regular volunteer attorney, and a year later won recognition as the 2016 recipient of the VBA’s Pro Bono Service Award. We talked about his pro bono work recently at his firm in downtown Burlington. “I really enjoy doing the pro bono work, but the opportunity to do it comes from the other folks on this floor,” Kevin said. “My time as an associate is really dependent on how supportive the firm is. They are incredibly supportive, and I’m really grateful that they have given me this opportunity. “ The Sheehey firm has a history of pro bono service; Lumpkin cited the work of Ian Carleton who represented John Grega in many years of post-conviction proceedings. Grega was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife, was later cleared, and his estate ultimately received a $1.55 million settlement from the State of Vermont. Said Kevin of Carleton’s work: “Ian is certainly one of the folks here to have done tremendous pro bono work and tremendous good. I like to think that I am continuing that legacy.” Kevin Lumpkin grew up in upstate New York to parents who were both doctors. He thought he would pursue that profession as well, and enrolled at UVM to study biology. Then, as he got more active in politics, he added political science as a second major and started thinking about the law. This was no real surprise to his parents. His dad tells the story of 6 year-old Kevin arguing with his parents, and then announcing that he would be a lawyer so he could make a living arguing. Kevin agrees that he enjoys the gladiatorial arena, and, yes, arguing for a living. After graduating from UVM, Kevin spent the better part of a year at the Vermont Teddy Bear company as a marketing analyst. He also taught the LSAT course and applied for law school himself. He selected Vanderbuilt because of its high academic standing, good financial aid packet and an atmosphere he could excel in. “I liked the 32 work hard/play hard atmosphere,” he explained. Lumpkin came back to Vermont after law school because he had fallen in love with the state. He was accepted as a judicial clerk for the state court system, starting in Bennington County. His work was mostly in the civil docket. “I got to see lawyers practice in person and through their writing,” Kevin noted. He also got to know the judges, and was impressed by the quality of the bench and the bar. Attorney Lumpkin also had the chance to see unrepresented litigants—he prefers that term to self-represented as the latter implies that they had a choice to hire a lawyer or not. Most don’t have the money or the choice, Lumpkin pointed out. He watched as they struggled to represent themselves before his judges. The unrepresented were often tackling complicated problems, had difficulty grasping the issues and lacked any legal training. Kevin was tasked with reading their pleadings carefully--some were handwritten. He had to spot issues and make recommendations to the judge. Often he thought “Gee, I wish this person had a lawyer.” Lumpkin’s second year of clerkship was in Chittenden and Addison Counties. He decided to look for a firm in the Burlington area, wrote to many, and was called in to visit with the Sheehey firm. “I was struck by everyone here –it’s a team of attorneys, absurdly smart, and the firm culture is collaborative. “ “Everyone knows what