Journalists who want to go beyond reporting and directly help the people they interview usually find another home for their professional passions.
For 2007 University of Kansas graduate Crissy Del Percio, the desire to make a difference led first to the UMKC School of Law and then to Legal Aid of Western Missouri, where she began as a paralegal while still in law school and is now a staff attorney in the domestic unit and pro se supervisor.
“I wanted to be Connie Chung,” said Del Percio, who grew up in the Kansas City area on both sides of the two-state border. “I was going to bring the news to the people.”
“The dean of the law school (Barbara Glesner Fines) told me. ‘There’s a place where you can have this job helping people called Legal Aid.’ I showed up in December of my second year and never left. And eventually they started paying me to show up.”
Del Percio’s colleagues call her a zealous advocate for domestic violence victims who’s also a model of poise and professionalism.
“For nearly 10 years she’s done as much, if not more, than any attorney in the city for women and their children,” said Dennis Chanay, a former Legal Aid coworker now practicing at Case Linden P.A. “As her colleague, I witnessed her unmatched dedication to clients and work ethic, as well as her mentoring of new attorneys and eagerness to share her expertise and experience. And as her friend, I know how she spends her precious free hours participating in the same vital advocacy.”
“Fiery advocate, gentle counselor, happy warrior, consummate professional: Crissy Del Percio is a true credit to our profession and to our state at large.”
Del Percio is active with both the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, particularly its juvenile section, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Foundation’s Domestic Violence Alliance. Outside of court, she serves on the board of both Sheffield Place, a shelter for women and children, and SocialHeart, a mission-driven social event organizer.
Other colleagues cite her resilience, optimism and ability to remain hopeful in a field that, as one nominator noted, “can take a toll on even the strongest advocate.”
“When we get good results here, they are GREAT results,” Del Percio said, with emphasis. “Some are heartbreaking. But the ones we can help —that empowers me to keep going.”
“My life goal is to change the system,” she adds. “One day I’ll be big enough to do that. But right now, I can change one person’s life at a time — and that’s enough for me.”