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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Pillsbury Team Steps in to Defend Client One Week Before Trial


Attorney Wesley Spowhn, an associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman where he focuses on complex litigation and internal investigations, recently found himself representing a Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP) client in court on a quality of life citation. Spowhn volunteered to represent the client through VLSP’s Medical-Legal Collaborative, which provides legal services to low-income patients at St. Mary’s Sister Philippa Health Center. Spowhn’s willingness to step in at the last minute and his dedication in representing the client makes him the Volunteer of the Month.

Wesley SpowhnResponding to a placement request from the project’s Supervising Attorney, Marie Appel, Spowhn agreed to take the case approximately one week before trial. The client, who had been erroneously cited for possessing an open container of alcohol in public, suffers from disabilities including memory and concentration issues due to a head injury, hepatitis, diabetes, depression and anxiety. Never having faced such a situation before, the client was extremely anxious about being able to defend herself in court as well as being embarrassed by the citation. Spowhn represented the client in court and got the citation dismissed, the client avoided a conviction and fines she could not afford while retaining her dignity.

The goal of VLSP’s Medical-Legal Project is to address legal issues which impact patients’ lives so that the legal problems do not interfere with their healthcare and ultimately overall health. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is one of the founding partner firms of the St. Mary Philippa Health Center-VLSP-Medical-Legal Collaborative.

Spearheaded by Thomas V. Loran III, Chair of Pillsbury’s Pro Bono practice, Pillsbury and its volunteers are a driving force behind the Medical-Legal Collaborative by providing financial support, and having its attorneys volunteer to conduct intake and represent clients in full-scope cases. In addition to Spowhn, Pillsbury volunteers include Medical-Legal Project Volunteer Team Leader Jessica Bogo; Pillsbury’s Director of Corporate and Social Responsibility Tania Shah; and Caitlin Bloom, Matthew Hallinan, Peter Richmond, and Ada Wall, who are associates in Pillsbury’s San Francisco office. For Pillsbury and its attorneys, no case is too large or too small.

Originally from Walnut Creek, Spowhn returned to the Bay Area after law school on the East Coast and now enjoys residing in San Francisco. He first volunteered with VLSP at Project Homeless Connect in 2006 and has since worked on eviction defense cases and federal pro bono representations in conjunction with VLSP. Spowhn also has experience representing incarcerated clients on claims concerning conditions of confinement and civil rights violations. For Spowhn, pro bono work has helped him grow personally and professionally. “Pro bono representations have allowed me to develop my legal skills—including oral advocacy, writing, and litigation strategy—much earlier than on larger cases for corporate clients.”

Of his motivation to do pro bono work, he states, “I find pro bono work especially rewarding when I can help give a voice to the voiceless, to help those in need navigate the judicial system. While I consider pro bono work a personal and professional duty, I relish the opportunity to right wrongs.”

When not representing clients, Spowhn enjoys coaching Balboa High School’s mock trial team through BASF’s Diversity Pipeline Program along with other Pillsbury attorneys.

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