Pro bono honorees
Pro bono honorees
Associate, Lathrop Gage
Location: Kansas City
Practice Areas: Insurance recovery and counseling, environmental law
Law School: University of Missouri-Kansas City
Of-Counsel, Lathrop Gage
Practice Area: Business litigation
Law School: Saint Louis University
Sarah Lintecum and Lauren Wacker were part of a team of Lathrop Gage attorneys who helped to free a Little Rock, Arkansas, woman who spent 26 years in prison for a murder her attorneys say she did not commit.
Laquanda “Faye” Jacobs was 16 in February 1992 when police arrested her in connection with the shooting death of another teenager. Although Jacobs did not match the description of the shooter and had an alibi, a teenager who witnessed the shooting picked her from a photo lineup, though he’d failed to identify her from the photo on two other occasions. Another witness who faced charges of his own also identified Jacobs but since has recanted his testimony.
The Lathrop Gage attorneys worked with the Midwest Innocence Project to overturn Jacobs’ conviction, arguing that her original lawyers had failed to talk to multiple witnesses who would have told the jury that she hadn’t committed the crime. But before the federal courts could rule on the matter, Jacobs was resentenced under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars automatic sentences of life without parole for defendants who were under 18 at the time of the crime.
In 2018, her sentence was reduced to 40 years, and she was released due to her exemplary conduct in prison. Although she is free, Jacobs has not been exonerated. Her advocates are petitioning Arkansas’s governor for clemency.
“When I heard Faye’s story, I could not fathom the injustice done to a young girl forced to spend her life in prison simply because she had limited family resources to provide a competent legal defense,” Wacker said.
Lintecum, who drove to Little Rock to watch Jacobs walk out of prison, said she was astonished by her client’s resiliency and strength of character.
“Despite what she has been through, Faye is upbeat, positive and happy,” she said.
What advice do you have for young lawyers?
Lintecum: First of all, I would encourage young lawyers to work on a pro bono matter because it is truly rewarding and reminds you of why you went to law school in the first place — to help those who don’t have a voice. Second, I would encourage all young lawyers to learn from their mistakes and become a leader by learning from a mentor who is willing to advocate for your success and give you opportunities to become a better lawyer.
Wacker: Do not confuse being a zealous advocate with being a jerk to opposing counsel. Just because we work within an adversary system does not mean we have to be difficult or abusive. If you are fair and reasonable in dealing with opposing counsel, you will develop a reputation as a problem-solver and not a troublemaker.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Lintecum: No one is going to manage your career for you. After receiving that advice, I’ve always had a general career path in mind and then sought out opportunities that help me get the skills that I need to take the next step on the path. I’ve been lucky to have great mentors along the way that have helped me find those opportunities and then succeed at them.
Wacker: My father taught me to be nice to everyone — obviously in life, but also in the legal world. I have been saved countless times by courtroom clerks and firm legal assistants who were happy to return a favor I had extended to them. Law firms and courts are inherently hierarchical, but when it comes to how you treat other human beings, there is no place for hierarchy.
What is your favorite thing to do away from work?
Lintecum: Attend sporting events or watch them on TV, particularly the Jayhawks, Chiefs and Royals. I also really enjoy spinning for exercise.
Wacker: Playing with my 2-year-old twins, Eddie and Jeannie, and planning my next vacation with my husband, Brian.