June 25, 2019
When the supervising attorney position at our Wheeling office became vacant this spring, the attorney who ultimately filled it—David Estep—had worked in three Legal Aid of WV offices and experienced a transformation in his home life. David was hired in 2013 as an attorney serving both the Beckley and Princeton offices in southern West Virginia. As a Moundsville native, he decided to move to the Wheeling office when a position opened in 2015 so he could be closer to his home and family.
The proximity to family has allowed him to create a support structure for his nieces and nephew, as he has recently become their sole guardian. Bradan, 10; Karma, 9; and Lyric, 20 months, keep David on his toes, so moving back home has allowed him to call on the village it takes to help raise them.
David is an example—and we have many of them here at LAWV—of someone who became an attorney to help people and found the perfect opportunity at a legal aid firm. “I had always positioned myself throughout my undergraduate and law school to work in an area that would benefit those West Virginians who needed a voice and needed an advocate’s help to navigate our complicated legal system,” he says. “I initially thought I would work in criminal defense as a public defender.”
In 2013, David was a law school graduate in the middle of what he describes as “a grueling summer of studying for the bar exam” when a position for an attorney opened in the Princeton LAWV office. The supervising attorney in Princeton at the time liked David so much, he offered him the position outright, before David even knew if he passed the bar exam. He did pass, as it turns out, and the rest is history.
Now, six years later, David has risen through the ranks to become his office’s supervising attorney and a mentor in his own right. “This position gives me the opportunity to build LAWV’s reputation in our communities and offer more chances for outreach in specific areas that have been underserved,” he says.
At LAWV, our supervising attorneys oversee the legal staff in their offices, but they also have a full case load. David’s passion is landlord-tenant law, and he will continue to advocate for clients with housing issues, as well as taking on family law clients. But David finds value from the area of law he’s practicing; he finds it in the idea of providing help where it otherwise wouldn’t exist.
“Prior to working at LAWV, the idea that the legal system sometimes left poor and low-income litigants unprotected and subjected them to injustice was a vague idea,” he says. “After working with LAWV, I have seen some of the injustices our clients can be subjected to, and it reinforces the work I do every day and makes me push myself harder to help even more clients. We often like to say that LAWV is the only game in town for our clients. All too often, that is true, and I take that to heart when trying to help as many people as I can.”
In Wheeling, the LAWV office may be the only place low-income clients can reliably go to for legal help, but there is a robust pro bono presence. Watching attorneys give of their time in his home region has been heartening, and he explains they have dedicated volunteers who visit their offices multiple times a week to advice clients on their legal rights. “Their work shows me that there is a lot of compassion in this area for the demographic we serve.”
He hopes to instill the value to serve others in his nieces and nephew, but that’s not all he’s planning to share with them. His passion for music—he plays the guitar—means the kids will spend their fair share of time listening to Johnny Cash, the Grateful Dead, and many others. And since David spent years working and traveling the southern part of West Virginia, he plans to show them all the beauty the Mountain State has to offer.
David is diligent to give back to his community, with good reason because they have given so much to him. Family, co-workers, clients, community members—they’ve demonstrated what’s possible when we treat service as a privilege.
Pictured below: David, Bradan and Karma at Christmas, and Lyric celebrating with chocolate cake (as one should always celebrate).