Teresa Anderson remembers that her aunt used to joke that she and her brother could one day become president and vice-president.
“Of course, we said, ‘Oh, I think you have to be an attorney to be those things,” recalled the 56-year-old Denver native who grew up in Colorado and Kansas. “That’s how it kind of started.”
Anderson never made it to the White House but she did end up with a law degree – as well as a desire to serve the community.
“I just found it to be a compelling thing that, as an attorney, you can have kind of a large impact on the way things are done, the way things are thought of,” said the Washburn University graduate. “For me, personally, it has been about trying to help people with a system that sometimes makes it difficult for them.”
That system is made easier by Anderson, whose two decades at Polsinelli and its pre-merger forerunner have been spent handling family court appointments for the firm’s attorneys.
“She’s incredibly passionate about assisting people who otherwise could not afford an attorney and is always sincerely grateful to help others,” writes her nominator who identified Anderson as a key component in Polsinelli’s winning Law Firm of the Year from Legal Aid of Western Missouri in 2018. “She gets the most satisfaction out of making a difference in others’ lives who deserve and need the help.”
A recipient of the Robert C. Welch Volunteer Attorney Award from Legal Aid and an honoree of the Kansas Bar Association for her pro bono work, Anderson supervised personnel in the Public Defender Juvenile Office from 1998-2000 and was lead counsel in 34 jury trials involving everything from first degree murder to robbery.
Her work today often sees her interacting with parents in a role she likens to a public defender even though there are no criminal charges.
“I like the idea of trying to reconcile big issues in a way that is beneficial to both the parents and the children or finding a different solution if that’s necessary,” she said, “but doing it in a way that’s compassionate where the parent really gets a say so in how the outcome of the case goes. I think it is important. You give parents a voice and by and large, they want to raise their kids so it is important they get that opportunity. You are kind of speaking for them in these court programs.”
Part of Lawyers Encouraging Academic Performance, Anderson also is a member of the Kansas Appleseed Board of Directors and the advisory board for Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s Volunteer Attorney Project.