Attorney General Honors Michael Gershel with Pro Bono Service Award
October 3, 2018
(Anchorage, AK) – In recognition of decades of service to survivors of domestic violence, Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth presented Michael Gershel with the Attorney General’s Award for Pro Bono Service last night at the Domestic Violence Action Month opening ceremonies. Begun nine years ago, the presentation of this award has marked the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month by honoring an attorney who has dedicated a significant portion of their career to assisting survivors of domestic and sexual violence with legal services at no cost.
“At a time when we have all been, rightfully, focused on our rising crime rates, it’s important to recognize people like Michael, who give of their time and effort to zealously advocate for survivors,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “Domestic and sexual violence are a scourge on our society. But Michael shows us how much of a difference just one person can make.”
Alaska’s statistics of domestic violence and sexual assault are staggering. A survey through the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2015 found that over 50 percent of women in Alaska experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Survivors often need civil legal services to end the violence including divorce, child custody, and protection orders. Private attorney Michael Gershel has dedicated hundreds of hours over his legal career to helping survivors navigate the justice system.
Since the legal organizations began keeping records in 2000, Gershel has personally represented clients in seven pro bono cases through the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) and 14 cases through Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC). In addition, he has often used his expertise in family law to mentor other attorneys who volunteer to work for these providers but who do not have the same level of experience.
“Michael has been a tremendous resource to our program, both in terms of his mentoring of newer volunteers and his direct advocacy with our clients,” said Christine Pate, the Legal Program Director for ANDVSA. “As a former legal services attorney, he understands how great the demand is for legal assistance and has dedicated a portion of his time in private practice to filling that need.”
Freshly out of law school, Gershel took a job at Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) representing indigent Alaskans needing legal help, beginning what has become a long, successful career in family law. After leaving ALSC for private practice, he has continued to volunteer for over two decades, advocating on behalf of clients at both ALSC and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA). Gershel seeks to empower individuals through his advocacy, expressing the importance of supporting people during difficult times: “Clients faced with violence often have to completely rebuild their lives,” says Gershel. “People are very capable and sometimes they don’t even know it.”
In 2003, Gershel received the Alaska Bar Association’s Pro Bono Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael is also affiliated with the Alaska Association of Collaborative Professionals. Outside of his professional life, he enjoys spending time with his wife of 26 years, Carol Gershel, being with his children, and kayaking out of his favorite locale, Whittier, Alaska.
If you’re an attorney interested in donating legal help to domestic violence survivors, please contact Christine Pate at the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (907-747-2673; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Laura Goss at the Alaska Legal Services Corporation (907-272-9431; email@example.com).
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