The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation presents the Presidential Award annually to individuals, law firms, or organizations that have made outstanding efforts to improve access to justice in Ohio. Since 1996, the Foundation has honored leaders in pro bono who play an indispensable role in helping Ohioans address civil legal issues that impact health, safety, and financial security.

The 2023 Presidential Award recipient, attorney Misty Connors, exemplifies the legal profession’s ethical and moral obligation to work for the public good. Since 2015, Connors has volunteered with Legal Aid of Western Ohio (LAWO), helping low-income Ohioans in rural Ohio by providing brief advice and legal services for pro se filers. Connors, a child welfare attorney who primarily practices in Dayton, volunteers in rural Ohio because she grew up in a small town and has seen firsthand the impact of the opioid crisis on rural communities.

“We have a lot of families taking care of children who lost parents,” Connors said. “If I know somebody is trying to figure out how to care for a kid in an area where I grew up, I know that they don’t really have a lot of places to call. I volunteer to say, hey, I’m a person you can call to help you.”

Since she started volunteering with LAWO, Connors has helped an extraordinary 160 low-income rural Ohioans, providing access to legal services they would have otherwise not received. Her nominator, Missy LaRocco, pro bono director and managing attorney at LAWO, says that many clients successfully represent themselves with the limited assistance Connors provides.

“She really cares about the clients and wants to help them understand their rights and options,” LaRocco said. “She is caring and considerate, and she gives them a lot of encouragement.”

Over the years, Connors has expanded her pro bono service with LAWO, building on a career-long commitment to giving back. In addition to running her practice and volunteering, Connors is an active member of the legal community. She is a member of the Dayton Bar Association, where she serves as co-chair of the Juvenile Law Committee.

At the end of the day, Connors wants to use the law and her expertise as a lawyer to help children and families.

“Nine times out of ten, I talk to a client, and their heart is in the same place as mine,” Connors said. “We just want to see the kids do better. And so, I do this because I know it’s people just like me, people who are trying to figure out how to make things easier for the kids in their community. And that’s me, too. That’s what I do.”

The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation will present the Presidential Award to Misty Connors during the Ohio State Bar Association’s annual meeting and the Foundation’s Legal Aid Day on May 9 at the Ohio Statehouse. Learn more about the Foundation’s awards.