Ellick Award: Johnson Helped Spark Referrals For Unbundled Legal Services


Karisa D. Johnson (Courtesy Karisa D. Johnson)
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Karisa D. Johnson knows she will be volunteering on the second Monday of every month, but she was surprised when that few hours of commit­ment each month trans­lated into recognition for her im­pact on the legal com­munity.

Johnson is the recipi­ent of this year’s Alfred G. Ellick Lawyer Referral Award for her volunteer efforts over the past decade and for helping to establish that referrals for limited scope representation are permitted through the Omaha Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Her key insight came from work­ing her monthly shift at the Douglas County Courthouse self-help desk through the Nebraska Volunteer Lawyer’s Project. She said many of those who were seeking assistance did not have the resources to hire an attorney but needed assistance with limited aspects of their case. Now they can be referred to hire those unbundled services using the OBA Lawyer Referral Service.

“I was able to identify a need through volunteering with a differ­ent service,” Johnson. 

Johnson has worked as an attor­ney for 15 years with experience in custody and paternity actions, creditors’ rights cases, contract liti­gation, construction litigation, cor­porate formation and governance. She’s also been a trained mediator for seven years.

Johnson said that when Judge Duane C. Dougherty, a former partner at her firm, was named to the Douglas County District Court bench in 2011, she took over his spot as a self-help desk volunteer.

“I felt like it was important that all attorneys perform pro bono legal services, and that’s how I choose to do it,” Johnson said. “There are many populations of people, in my opinion, who are underserved and don’t have the financial wherewith­al to have access to justice. To me it’s an access to justice issue.”

Johnson is the managing partner and founder of Koukol & Johnson LLC, which she started in 2007. The firm’s specializations include family law, aviation law and estate planning services.

Johnson previously had been an associate attorney at Ballew Schneider Covalt Gaines & Engdahl PC LLO in Omaha, where she spent three years after graduat­ing from the Creighton University School of Law. She received the Nebraska Lawyers Foundation Visionary Award in 2016.

The Ellick Award is named after Alfred G. Ellick, who created the OBA Lawyer Referral Service in 1962. The award recognizes a de­cade of work for the service.

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