Cleveland attorney goes from legal aid client to board president

CONTACT: Ken Brown – 800-282-6556 or 614-487-4426 (cell phone: 614-746-2457)

Columbus, Ohio (May 18, 2011) -- For those who believe  the American dream is no longer possible or within reach, Ilah Adkins' story may change your mind.

Adkins is not only the board president of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, but she is the first former client to ever hold the position. It seems improbable, but it was only a little more than 15 years ago that Adkins was going into the Legal Aid offices in need of help. As a teenager, Adkins was in and out of foster care until she aged out of the system at 18. She married young and immediately had two children.

“My life quickly became complicated; I knew I had to get out and make a better life for my children. I was battling alcoholism and other issues.”

When Adkins turned to Legal Aid for help, she was barely 30 days sober and without a steady job or a permanent home. She was seeking a means to leave her marriage as she found herself in an abusive relationship that threatened both her and her children.

“My Legal Aid attorney, Alexandra Ruden, specialized in working with women in abusive situations. She asked me questions that challenged me to consider the direction of my life.”

That encounter changed her life and inspired her legal career. Adkins went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cleveland State University and a law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. She became a member of the Ohio State Bar Association after graduating from law school in 2003.

Adkins works as vice president and in-house legal counsel at Charter One Bank and serves on the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Board of Directors. “Legal Aid’s services gave me the stability I needed to find my way out of poverty. In this difficult economy, hardships for people are increasing, and Legal Aid has to meet ever-growing demand with limited resources.  There is immense need for more pro bono legal assistance and financial support.”

In her community, Adkins volunteers for the Animal Protective League. She enjoys reading and playing golf in her free time. Her children, Samantha and Mason, are now 20 and 19. 

Adkins admits her experience inspires her to help others. “I simply feel that it’s important for those of us in the legal community who have the means to do what we can to help. It’s not just about helping that one person who walks through the door, but also about finding the next person who, like me, could go on to help others and be successful. By removing a legal barrier in someone’s life, you often open a window of opportunity for them.”

The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio, as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.




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