Bowen graduate establishes nonprofit law firm

meA graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law partnered with a like-minded associate to create one of the few nonprofit law firms in central Arkansas.

“My dad said he always knew I’d be an attorney,” Angela Echols said. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been able to strategically formulate arguments.”

Echols graduated from the law school in 1999, and her career has flourished.

“My partner, Emily Reynolds, and I met one day for lunch and we talked about our interests and why we chose to get into the practice,” Echols said. “We both saw the need to bridge the gap between costly legal services and the people who were turned away because they couldn’t afford them.”

With a total of 23 years of experience between the two, Echols and Reynolds decided to start Accessible Legal Services, located in Hot Springs.

“When I started out in a for-profit law firm, I was charging $200 an hour, making more than $30 every 10 minutes,” Echols said. “I had to turn away almost three-fourths of the people that needed my services because they couldn’t afford it.”

At Accessible Legal Services, costs are determined on a sliding scale based on a person’s income and the number of residents living in his or her household. Thanks to grant funding, instead of paying $200 an hour, clients are now able to afford legal services for about $50 a month.

“The only reason we have now to turn down a client is if we don’t have the skill set they’re looking for,” Echols said.

No longer concerned about how much money she makes, Echols said her only goal is to bring hope to her clients.

“Over the years, my mindset transitioned,” she said. “I’m no longer after the money. I’ve had so many clients come into my office saying they feel hopeless, and that’s what I’m here to change.”

An incident that aided in Echols’ decision to start her own practice involved a client she thought wasn’t being treated fairly.

“A woman who suffered from a drug addiction had to go into an inpatient drug rehabilitation program and because of that, the Department of Human Services took custody of her children,” Echols said. “Although she had a court-appointed attorney, she wasn’t getting any significant results toward reunification of her children, even though she was in complete compliance with her case plan.”

Instead of letting the situation play out, Echols decided to take the case.

“Once I agreed to assist her, she almost immediately began receiving increased visitation with her children,” Echols said. “She needed someone to advocate for her, and once someone became her advocate, her hard work towards reunification was recognized.”

Echols thinks that if she hadn’t helped that client, the woman wouldn’t have been able to see her children again.

After having children of her own, Echols found herself taking on a more spiritual mindset, which helped direct her path.

Before she started her own firm, she was the director of the Hope Movement, a Christian nonprofit organization that focuses on the care of children and adults living in need. Although she no longer serves in the director role, she continues to provide legal services for the organization.

Outside of her firm, Echols works as a co-facilitator of the Getting Ahead program at the Garland County Detention Center, where she also leads a life-skills course.

As Echols continues to expand her reach, she hopes to build relationships and attract young, up-and-coming law students with the mindset to make a change in the community.

Ultimately, her goal is to build her clientele and open multiple nonprofit law firms throughout the state.

For more information, contact Echols at 501.239.850

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