Laramie attorney Kelly Neville has officially started her term as president of the Wyoming State Bar, having officially served a full month of her term as of this week.
Neville works for Brown & Hiser LLC and also serves as in-house general counsel for Western States Bank in Laramie.
Part of an emerging legacy, Neville is the fourth attorney from Brown & Hiser to be appointed to the role. Senior partner Kermit Brown served in 1994-1995, senior partner Bill Hiser served from 2008-2009 and former counsel Tom Smith served from 1984-1985.
“We’re not sure that there’s any other firm in the state that has that type of legacy of bar leadership,” Neville told the Laramie Boomerang on Tuesday.
Neville said she enjoyed hearing stories about the role during her 14 years with the firm. She’s also been involved with the bar herself for quite some time, including chairing the Wyoming State Bar Clients’ Security Fund Committee, president of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Wyoming State Bar and president of the Albany County Bar Association.
Getting even more involved, Neville said she also got an inside look at the president position during her year as a commissioner for the Second Judicial District, which covers Albany and Carbon counties. Through her commission service, she said she “got to learn a lot about how the bar works and be part of that governing board.”
She couldn’t finish her term as commissioner, however, because she was selected as president-elect in July after the previous candidate, Nathaniel Hibben, was selected to be a new circuit court judge in Torrington.
Neville moved to Laramie in 2004 after graduating from Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana, and started immediately with Brown & Hiser.
She’s spent the last 14 years with the firm, practicing probate work, estate work, family law and, of course, banking law. Western States Bank was one of her first clients, working with them on everything from the bank’s charter to other acquisitions.
No matter the specific practice area, a career practicing law, she said, is both challenging and rewarding.
“You help people in some of the most difficult times in their lives and help them get to a better resolution, help them navigate what is to a nonlawyer often a confusing, challenging, stressful process,” Neville said.
Helping make that process a little less challenging for the lawyers and the public alike, the Wyoming State Bar is a quasi-governmental entity that supports and assists new lawyers by making sure they’re qualified to practice as well as a disciplinary body to support the public if they’re wrongly represented.
Neville will serve for a one-year term as president, which involves speaking at engagements and events like judge appointments and law school graduations as well as serving on boards, committees and commissions for different bar association-supported initiatives.
One of the bar association’s initiatives in its strategic plan this year, she said, is to support attorney wellness. The association is working on “ways to get attorneys to focus on a more well-rounded approach to life,” Neville said.
“As a profession, it has some of the highest rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse,” she added. “We’ve seen that the numbers for young lawyers are particularly staggering.”
Supporting solo practices, especially as many rural attorneys get closer to retirement, is also a big initiative on the association’s strategic plan.
About half of the bar association’s members are attorneys who may not live in Wyoming but are able to practice here, but Neville said that “of the ones that do live in Wyoming, the majority of them are in a small firm or a solo practice, and it’s challenging.”
Additionally, the State Bar is gearing up for the University of Wyoming Law School’s 100-year anniversary next fall and the anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting the women the right to vote. Neville said the State Bar is planning various celebrations for both events.
The president-elect taking over after Neville’s term in September is Billie Addleman of Cheyenne’s Hirst Applegate, LLP, but Neville said she’ll continue to serve as past president.
“It’s good to have that kind of continuity,” she said. “Past presidents try to stay involved for a year and support the leadership team.”