Staff Attorney Profile: Harold Williams

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June 2010  — Harold Williams is a man of few words, but he holds a wealth of wit. When asked what has kept him at Legal Aid for 35 years, Mr. Williams slyly smiles and jokes, “Inertia,” before clarifying that he likes to be “on the right side of the issues.”

Harold Williams

Joseph Meissner, senior attorney in the Consumer Law Unit, calls Mr. Williams “one of the icons” of Legal Aid. Mr. Williams started at Legal Aid in 1975, working in a neighborhood office and the Law Reform Unit before becoming managing attorney of the Consumer Law Unit in 2003. Deputy Director David Dawson observes: “[Harold] is so well grounded in the law and practice that he can move readily from one area of consumer law to another. When the foreclosure crisis hit, he knew it, he knew the area, and he knew the law.”

Mr. Williams also supervises Legal Aid’s substantive law participation in the statewide Save the Dream foreclosure prevention program and serves as the editor and principal author of Ohio Consumer Law, a West publication used by judges, law practitioners and students statewide.

Mr. Williams cites a 1978 case as his most memorable: Akers v. Ohio Department of Liquor Control. This statewide class action lawsuit charged the liquor control department with racial discrimination toward its employees. When Mr. Williams and his co-counsel, Dennis Luttenauer, asked the court for six months to prepare for trial, they were given six weeks. “We worked around the clock,” he says. “We were in the office at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning.” The attorneys eventually won the case.

“Even had we lost,” Mr. Williams says, “the work we put into it was a valuable lesson to me about preparation. The only thing you can do is prepare.”

Julie Robie, a staff attorney in the Consumer Law Unit, says Mr. Williams leads by example: “I have learned a great deal from Harold from watching his rational, composed approach in client interactions and court appearances; his advocacy style has earned him great respect with colleagues and the court.”

In March 2010, Mr. Williams was presented with the first William J. Brown Consumer Protection Award from the Ohio Attorney General. The award honors an individual who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to a safe and fair marketplace and is named for former Ohio Attorney General William J. Brown, who created the office’s first Consumer Protection Section.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Williams referenced a discrimination case from his time as a summer clerk at the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights: “I saw the power of the law working to help the vulnerable and the power of legal representation to enforce those rights to which all people are entitled – not just the wealthy, but also the poor and disenfranchised that otherwise would not receive legal representation.”

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