Legal Aid Society honors attorneys who give back

The Benton Franklin Legal Aid Society honored an attorney and a legal technician with its highest awards for their service to the community in 2022.

The legal aid society is a nonprofit and provides volunteer attorneys to Tri-City residents who can’t afford to pay legal fees for noncriminal cases. Its attorneys handle disputes ranging from evictions, bankruptcy and family law to protection orders.

Al Yencopal Award

Allen Brecke

Allen Brecke, longtime lawyer and Tri-Citian, received the 2022 Al Yencopal Award.

The award honors the memory of the late judge, who died in 1993. He was a key supporter of bringing low- or no-cost legal services to the community. The award is given to an attorney for his or her longtime commitment to providing free services.

Brecke, who leads Allen Brecke Law Offices in Kennewick, is a proud Tri-City native and the son of a Manhattan Project physicist and lab technician.

He graduated from Kennewick High School in 1969 and later from the University of Washington in 1974. He earned his law degree from Gonzaga University, where he served as articles editor for the school’s law review.

He joined an insurance defense firm in Pasco in 1977 and formed his own firm in 1983. Since 1986, he has concentrated on representing injured victims.

He was the 2013 Tri-Citian of the Year, one of the community’s top civic honors. He is a member of both the Washington and Oregon bars.

Gene Schuster Award

Lori Mendoza

Lori Mendoza of Clearwater Law Group in Kennewick received the Gene Schuster Award.

She is a limited legal licensed technician, or LLLT, and volunteers with the legal aid society, providing one-on-one help in family law matters.

The late Gene Schuster, who died in 2006, founded the Legal Aid program. The award given in his name honors volunteers who are earlier in their careers.

Mendoza is a native of Eastern Washington who graduated from Othello High School in 2001. She attended the paralegal program at Columbia Basin College and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science from Washington State University in 2015.

She became a certified paralegal through NALA in 2017. She was Clearwater Law Group’s first staff member. As an LLLT, she advises and assists people going through divorce, child custody and other family law matters.

She is studying to pursue admission to the state bar as an attorney.

Other awards

The legal aid society also honored many attorneys for their commitment to providing pro bono services to the community.

The 2022 awards were sponsored by Cornerstone Wealth Strategies and held at Columbia Industries Opportunity Kitchen at the Richland Federal Building.

Judge George Fearing of the Washington Court of Appeals Division III was the guest speaker.

Attorneys received accolades include:

  • Kari Hayles-Davenport, founding attorney, Tri-Cities Family Law, Kennewick, focuses on family legal issues.
  • Mark Bunch, partner, Preszler & Bunch PLLC, Kennewick, focuses on Social Security disability and workers’ compensation.
  • Kolleen Ledgerwood, Ledgerwood Law Office, Kennewick, family law.
  • Christopher Mertens, of Miller Mertens & Comfort PLLC, Kennewick, a full-service law firm.
  • Beau Ruff, president and director of planning, Cornerstone Wealth Strategies, Kennewick, estate planning, business planning and taxation strategy.
  • Rachel Woodard, Powell & Gunter, Richland, general law practice.
  • Done Reading?

    Take me back to the top

Posted in ,

Latest News


Sign-up for our e-newsletter filled with featured stories and latest news.


Shred Day

April 14 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Spring Career and Internship Fair in Pasco

April 25 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Head & Neck 5K/2-Mile Walk in Richland

April 15 @ 9:00 am