BY ROSS MOORE II
Former GTLA President Pope Langdale has given back to his community in several ways: Most notably by his contributions of scholarships to qualified high school students; cars to deserving teachers; and the organization of “Lawyer for a Day,” a program encouraging attorneys from around the state to donate their time and legal expertise to those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Although Langdale has been fortunate in his career so that he could make these types of contributions to the community, it was stressed many times throughout his interview that time is often more valuable than money. Anyone can take a moment to strike a check to a local organization, but actually pausing your own agenda and donating your quality time can often be the difference in hoping for change and seeing it with your own eyes.
Langdale Legal Scholarship
In its third year, the Langdale Legal Scholarship offers a well-qualified high school student from both Lowndes County High School and Valdosta High School a one-thousand-dollar scholarship to be used to assist with college expenses. The scholarship is intended for someone interested in either the practice of law or its enforcement, “in hopes that they bring those skills back to South Georgia.” In order to be eligible, the high school senior must:
- Pursue a career in either law or a field related to the law;
- Currently have a GPA of 3.5 or higher; and
- Attend a post-secondary accredited 4-year college/university in the following fall semester.
In 2016, the Langdale Legal Scholarship was awarded to Motunvolaolu “Mo” Asebiomo and Kellsie A. Davis. Asebiomo was accepted into Stanford University and Davis into the University of Georgia, where she plans to major in Political Science. Without the scholarship, Davis would not have been able to pursue her passion of participating in the UGA Flagline. Stanford does not require that a major be declared until a student’s sophomore year, but Asebiomo explained that she intended “to explore the academic offerings in my freshman year and choose what is in my best interest for a future in law.”
Vehicle Donated to Teacher of the Year
Each year, a teacher from each of the two Lowndes County public school systems who provides an extraordinary level of service to his or her students is selected as “Teacher of the Year.” Langdale plays no role in the selection process, but does deliver quite the prize once the winners are announced. Not only does he provide the teachers with a vehicle for the entire year of their award tenure, but he does so in a manner that does not bring burden to the recipient and his or her family. Langdale graciously allows for up to $1,200 per year of insurance coverage, provides routine maintenance for the vehicle, and even gives a gas card to each recipient. Adds Langdale, “I wanted to give something that doesn’t burden the family, something that’s truly free.”
This year’s winners were Maria Staley from the County School System and Sheila Heeter from the City School System. The donation has caused such a stir in the community that Langdale successfully rallied other local businesses to also donate to the winners. Prizes include everything from classroom supplies to pizza parties. Langdale’s intentions are to help equip teachers in the community with a solid foundation so that they can, in turn, continue to focus on building a stable educational framework for student success. With the worry of a car payment off their minds, local educators can fully focus on the bright futures of the student’s they teach.
LAWYER FOR A DAY
As Chairman of the General Practice and Trial Section of the State Bar, Langdale partnered with Georgia Legal Services to help give back to the community in a very unique way: by motivating lawyers to donate a single day of their time to those in need. The day consisted of helping indigent clients navigate all types of legal issues. Lawyers from around the state gathered to donate their time to help those in need of their expertise, varying from the drafting of wills, adopting children and resolving landlord/tenant disputes. Lawyers in Atlanta, Valdosta, Rome, Savannah, Augusta and many more cities cleared their calendars and happily marched into local Legal Services offices to give what can often be construed as more valuable than money—their time. They charged nothing and gave invaluable time to deserving clients that faced a plethora of challenging and, in some cases, life-altering legal issues. “It was a great way to get lawyers to volunteer their time to help families who couldn’t afford legal representation,” Langdale adds.
It’s unfortunate and extremely disappointing to recognize, but the truth is that some members of our community think trial lawyers are only seeking self-serving interests. While most GTLA members know this to be untrue, some of us also idly choose not to help facilitate a change of perception. Any lawyer can sit in his or her office each day aggressively pursuing their client’s best interests and, in turn, society has been positively affected by these efforts. However, by effectuating change and leaving the office behind for just a day to promote your local communities’ interests in a positive way, everyone is positively affected. Langdale’s message is clear: help those in need by contributing in ways that you can afford—whether it be financial support or the donation of your time. With the right mindset and initiative, each one of us can help cast a more positive light on trial lawyers. Langdale has the means to contribute financially and has done so, but he has also contributed his time by providing it to those who cannot afford legal counsel. I leave you with this encouragement from Pope Langdale: “You can have more impact with time than money. It’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to do it…Not everyone can give what I can give, but what you can do is go help raise money for the United Way, or chair a board of your local YMCA. Just go get involved in the community and you’ll have just as much impact.”