By: Ireland O’Connell, Legal Intern, Volunteer Lawyers Program
Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal volunteerism. The award is a distinct honor. Of the 533 attorneys and paralegals who volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.
Kayla Bernays is the May 2021 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award Recipient.
Ms. Bernays is a partner attorney at Randle Palmer & Bernays, PLLC where she practices family and juvenile law. She handles many different issues such as divorce, custody, grandparents’ rights, and her personal favorite, adoption.
Originally from Phoenix, Ms. Bernays came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, where she received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology, with minors in French and Theatre Arts. She learned a lot from her time in theatre that has translated into her career as an attorney. She also received her Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, where she was very involved in student organizations such as the Arizona Law Review, Pride Law, and the ASUA Supreme Court; in all of which she held leadership positions.
She is very passionate about volunteering and commenced volunteer work as soon as she was able to drive. She previously volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. She recognizes some of the barriers to accessing a lawyer, such as cost, and began volunteering with Southern Arizona Legal Aid in November 2018, when she had recently begun practicing law. She teaches VLP divorce and paternity classes. She also regularly volunteers in domestic relations clinics. She previously received the May 2019 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month award, and her firm received the 2020 Firm of the Year award, which she would pinpoint as a career high point.
Ms. Bernays has a wide range of hobbies and interests, such as playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends, reading, watching television, and taking ballet classes. She is also scuba dive certified. Some of her favorite books include fictional works such as the Harry Potter series and The Twilight Saga. She also has two dogs, two cats, and a pet fish in her office. Besides her pet fish, if you entered her office you would also see a large teddy bear, purchased as a joke. However, after many kids who entered her office would want to take the massive teddy bear home, she ordered miniature bears to give out to children, so they would not go home empty-handed. Her devotion to her practice and to giving back to the community is clear.
A different practice area that interests her is Wills and Estates, as it ties in with her broader interest in family studies and the overall human condition. If she had a different career it would be as a writer on a comedy show such as Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, or a show she finds very quotable, The Office.
The qualities she admires most in an attorney are integrity, candor, and compassion. Her real-life heroes are her mom and dad, her law partners, and her wife.
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