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Program helps graduate build unique solo practice

April 5, 2012 | Alumni

Domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human-trafficking – all are areas many lawyers are hesitant to pursue due to financial constraints, Micaela Deming ’09 says. Perhaps that is why the Columbus attorney’s focused practice developed rapidly.

A year after graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Deming participated in the first group of the Columbus Bar Incubator Program, a support system for eight aspiring solo practitioners.

The CBA, Inc. provided Deming with training in client intake, billing practices, law office management, law firm marketing, lawyer ethics, and professionalism, as well as case management, court rules, and discovery. The program’s goal is to help guide participants into establishing a solo practice.

“My practice grew too quickly for the program to handle (due to) a huge need for what I do,” Deming said.

She opened her firm, Deming Law, in February 2011 with the aid of a federally funded grant through the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, which funds her client representation. She received the support of another grant through the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition. Her practice is located in Hilliard, Ohio.

“Every day is completely different,” Deming said. “I’m work­ing in about 15 different counties, and I have court most days of the week. I’m in trial a lot. I will get up as early as I need to, and I’m usually working pretty late.”

Acting as a one-person firm handling more than 40 active cases – and filling the roles of wife to William Crist ’09 and mother to 1-year-old son, Pheonix – Deming said she relies heavily on her assistant to tie up any loose ends and stay sane. Despite the busy routine, she said the challenging work is worthwhile.

“It’s difficult emotionally to deal with people in crisis ev­ery day. A lot of my clients are in hiding, and their children are being abused,” she said. However, she added, it’s reward­ing to help people and do something she enjoys without compromising how she runs her firm.

Deming’s desire to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human-trafficking emerged in her undergraduate years at Bucknell University. Working as a resident advisor, students would confide in Deming about being survivors of sexual assault. At the time, she also was writing her thesis on sexual assault and was unsure of how advocacy work could become a professional career. “When I spoke with survivors and advocates at shelters, they said what they really needed were lawyers,” she recalled. “I wanted to help them.”

Deming decided to pursue a Juris Doctor and tailored her education at Moritz to her interests in helping victims of sexual assault and violence. She enrolled in courses related to women in law or violence in law at the University, earn­ing a graduate minor in women’s studies while at Moritz. She also was president of the Women’s Legal Society.

Through the generosity of scholarship funding, Deming was able to practice in a field some may be unable to pursue otherwise because of the demands of student debts.

During the first year, she struggled finding a job practicing law in her area of interest. She settled working as a domestic violence advocate for the Columbus City Prosecutor’s Office. “After putting in a year there, I realized I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing,” she said. Deming decided to join CBA, Inc., which led to her establishing Deming Law.

Having checked off her first career goal, Deming now aspires to open up a center that would house services and lawyers specializing in specific practice areas for survivors. It would provide convenience for survivors to have all of their needs addressed at one place, she figures. Deming is in the process of getting the word out about her “dream” to generate funding and support from other attorneys.