This month, the State Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Section honored Alameda County’s Sally Elkington by presenting her with 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 time and energies to promote access to justice, and demonstrated leadership to the legal community. 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,” Elkington says. “If it’s not getting done or someone is not being served, then I want to do something to help.”
She maintains a very active solo practice representing debtors in bankruptcy, and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Alameda County Bar Association, and 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.
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, Elkington 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, she also helped establish a long-range strategic planning process for the organization. This year, she 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 Elkington’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.”
Elkington 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 Elkington’s third career. Her undergraduate degree is in physical education, but instead of teaching, she entered the business world. Later, she 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, she says one thing has remained constant: “I have always strived to make a difference.”