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VOL. 123 | NO. 154 | Thursday, August 07, 2008

Butler Snow’s McAnally Receives Pro Bono Award

By Rebekah Hearn

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Melody McAnally
Position: Attorney
Firm: Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC
Basics: McAnally has received the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project (MVLP) Curtis E. Coker Access to Justice Award.
“It’s just refreshing to represent real people with real issues and to see the positive effect that the legal system can provide for people.”
– Melody McAnally

Melody McAnally is an attorney with the Memphis office of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada PLLC where she practices in commercial litigation. She recently received the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project (MVLP) Curtis E. Coker Access to Justice Award at the annual convention of the Mississippi Bar Association.

McAnally also was recognized in 2003 with the Pro Bono Award from the Jackson (Miss.) Young Lawyers Association. She was recognized primarily for her work regarding a specific divorce and child custody case that came to her through MVLP.

McAnally is licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi. She recently moved to Memphis from Jackson.

Q: What inspired you to go into the field of law?

A: I worked for a number of lawyers who were running for political office in Mississippi before I went to law school, and they were all very inspirational in that they did a lot of different things with their law degree. I thought, “I can do a lot of different things with a law degree.” Once I got into law school, I realized that I definitely wanted to practice. Going in, I wasn’t so sure; but I wanted to have that knowledge, and I wanted to be able to use that knowledge in what appeared to be a number of different ways.

Q: Have you always been drawn to pro bono work?

A: Absolutely. My very first case that I worked on when I first started practicing five years ago was a pro bono case. I represented a grandmother trying to get custody of her grandchildren. It was an eye-opening experience – and very unlike my commercial litigation practice. I typically represent corporations dealing with business issues, and so it’s just refreshing to represent real people with real issues and to see the positive effect that the legal system can provide for people. I’ve just met some incredibly wonderful people who need fairly simple legal solutions, but they are problems that have such a profound effect on one’s family.

Q: You, along with other lawyers, worked to represent about 3,500 abused and neglected children who were in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Can you talk about that case?

A: It was a foster care class action case, and I represented all foster children in Mississippi in a lawsuit that lasted a little over three years. We actually settled the case in January, and have a plan in place to reform Mississippi’s foster care system from top to bottom. According to the agreement, (it) will take about three to five years, but it will drastically change the way foster children are treated in Mississippi. That was an amazing case. Thankfully, the state of Mississippi recognized those problems and is working to fix (them). It will have a profound effect on foster children in Mississippi.

Q: How did you become involved with that case?

A: The firm I was in with in Mississippi was approached by an organization based in New York called Children’s Rights, and all they do is go from state to state and look at each state’s child welfare system. They came to Mississippi, did an investigation for over a year, found some egregious problems, and actually approached one of my former law partners in Mississippi and said, “We’re looking for someone to help us with this case.” So they made the decision to let me, as a young lawyer, be the primary local counsel on the case. They are an amazing organization in what they do.

Q: Are you involved with any of the local Memphis pro bono organizations?

A: I am, I just got involved recently with Memphis Area Legal Services, and I had volunteered at their Saturday Legal Clinic. I hope to get more involved with them, because that was a great experience – a little overwhelming, because all these people were lined up, with serious issues and questions, and I didn’t know the answers to a lot of them, frankly. There were a number of lawyers there, thankfully; someone there had the answer to all the questions. But it’s good to see that so many people in Memphis are taking advantage of that free clinic, and I’m looking forward to the next one. It’s helping me learn more about different legal issues, but it also helps me learn about people in the community and what they deal with.

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