(Anchorage, AK) – In recognition of his service to survivors of domestic violence, acting Attorney General Ed Sniffen awarded Christopher Slottee the Attorney General’s Award for Pro Bono Service today. The award is presented each October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to an attorney who has dedicated a portion of their career to assisting survivors of domestic and sexual violence with legal services at no cost.

Alaska’s statistics on domestic violence and sexual assault are staggering. A 2015 survey by the University of Alaska Justice Center found that over 50 percent of women in Alaska experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) is a statewide coalition providing legislative and legal advocacy resources for survivors. The Network coordinates 23 programs across Alaska ranging from shelters, hotlines and assault response teams to legal advocacy, community education and rural outreach.

The Legal Program relies on both staff attorneys and volunteer attorneys to handle its cases. Chris is a long-time volunteer attorney helping survivors obtain orders for protection through the justice system. When asked about the work, Chris reflected “you get to help someone with some of the biggest needs they will ever have. They’re in an emergency and you can get in and help them. You can really change their lives and give them some assurance.”

Chris graduated from law school and made his way up north via the Alaska Marine Highway. Fortunately, 19 years later he’s still here. He clerked for Judge Rene Gonzalez, worked at Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon, served as VP and general counsel to Old Harbor Native Corporation, was a partner at Holland & Knight, LLP, and is now a shareholder at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt. It was in 2005 at Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon that Chris originally became involved with ANDVSA as a volunteer working on protective orders. Both Chris and the firm saw the pro bono work as an opportunity to help people who really needed it and to gain trial experience: “I started helping out [ANDVSA] on a couple protective orders. I found it really rewarding; I liked helping people and I liked my clients. I believed them, and I wanted them to win. I was also glad to be able to litigate their cases in front of a judge.” In his most recent positions at Holland & Knight and Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, Chris continues to do protection order work and use it as a tool to teach litigation skills to newer associates. Since 2005, Chris has helped nine clients with protection orders. Additionally, he has helped ANDVSA to recruit other attorneys to do this work.

“Chris was part of our original protection order project through Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon whereby we were trying to get firms that traditionally did not do protection order cases to take on this work,” said Christine Pate, Legal Program Director at ANDVSA. “It has been wonderful to see Chris continue this important work in his current firm and to mentor newer associates to do it.”

Chris enjoys the cross-examination aspect of the pro bono cases he takes on. “ANDVSA does such a good job of identifying the people that really need help and gives us everything we need to go in really well prepared to advocate for good clients and good claims. When you have a good case, you can do a precise cross-examination and really get the point across.” One of the more challenging aspects of doing this work, according to Chris, is that “the protective order is not the end of the road, and it’s not going to solve all [the client’s] problems. You have to explain that we’re going to do our best, but that’s only one step.” Still, it makes a significant difference in clients’ safety and wellbeing, and is a vital first step in escaping abuse.

If you are an attorney interested in volunteering services on cases of domestic violence or sexual assault, please visit ANDVSA or Alaska Legal Services.

# # #

Department Media Contact: Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or maria.bahr@alaska.gov.

Reposted with permission from State of Alaska Department of Law. View original release here.

Sign up

Ideas & Insights