PRINCETON – As if being a single mother who just started her own law firm isn’t enough, Paige Flanigan has something else to keep her busy for the next year.
Flanigan recently was elected president of the West Virginia Association for Justice at the organization’s annual convention.
“It is a great privilege and honor to serve as president of the West Virginia Association for Justice,” Flanigan, 49, said. “For more than 50 years, its membership has included many of West Virginia’s leading attorneys, and it has been a state leader in educating attorneys and protecting access to the courts for West Virginia residents.
“I look forward to leading this work in the year ahead.”
The last year has been a busy one for Flanigan.
She opened her own practice, Flanigan Law Office, in Princeton in November. It’s one of the largest family law practices in southern West Virginia. She also fulfilled a lifelong dream with a trip to Ireland with her father this spring. And that’s on top of being a mom to one college and one high school student.
“I do have a lot on my plate,” Flanigan said. “First and foremost, I’m a mom. After I got out of law school, I went straight to work at the firm (Sanders, Austin, Flanigan and Flanigan) I was with for 22 years.
“Last year, decided I was going to do this on my own. My cousin Ryan joined me a few months ago. It’s been a very exciting year. I’m learning to embrace change. I’ve come into my element, if you will. It’s a lot of 12-hour days, but I’ve been very blessed. I feel like I have a lot of energy.”
A Princeton native, Flanigan is the daughter of former Mercer County delegate Richard Flanigan and Sylvia Flanigan. She attended Concord College for her undergraduate work, and she earned her law degree from Ohio Northern University. She rose to partner at Sanders, Austin, Flanigan and Flanigan before opening her own firm in November. Besides family law, the firm’s practice areas include all aspects of civil plaintiffs’ litigation and criminal defense.
“As an undergraduate at Concord I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue professionally, but I kept coming back to the law and how it would allow me to help others and serve my community,” Flanigan said. “The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the right fit.”
Flanigan is quick to praise her family, especially her parents, for making her the person she is today.
“I owe everything to my parents,” she said. “From the time I was very young, they taught me about the importance of justice and helping others who couldn’t help themselves. They taught me to be honest and forthright. They taught me to do what is right – even when it may not be what’s most beneficial for me.
“My father’s service in the Legislature showed me how one person can make a real difference in the lives of others in our community. Those are the values that guide every aspect of my life and my practice. It’s what I take into the courtroom every day and what I want to pass on to my own children.”
Being one of only three female presidents in the history of the WVAJ and one of the few from southern West Virginia, Flanigan said she brings a unique perspective to the post.
She also has big plans for her year as president.
“I want to do some new things with the WVAJ,” Flanigan said. “One of my goals is to increase the number of women in the organization. We don’t have nearly the number of women in the group. Most law school classes are 50 percent women graduates now.
“I still want to continue the mission of the organization to protect our Seventh Amendment rights and advocate for fair access to courts. It’s a right most people don’t think about until they need it. Think about David and Goliath. When one person walks into a courtroom, he or she is on equal footing with a large corporation. That’s an important right.
“We will continue to work with the Legislature. There has been a tremendous amount of change there, and that presents challenges in and of itself. We want to continue to work with the Legislature to educate them on issues.”
Flanigan also says she wants to make people realize the West Virginia court system is wrongly blamed for many problems.
“I want to change those perceptions,” she said. “I don’t think West Virginia really is a hellhole. We are blessed to have some of the best judges, and that includes magistrates and family court judges. You might not always agree with the decisions, but that’s not making our state a hellhole.”
Flanigan said she wants the WVAJ to continue to educate people about their legal rights, and she wants to forge a stronger relationship with the West Virginia University College of Law.
I want to grow our student organization there, let them know the benefits of our organization,” she said. “We have a duty to mentor and help those who have just come out of law school. I want to encourage that within our group.
“I also think it’s important for our members to take full advantage of networking. I have found that you can sometimes learn the most from other lawyers, even when you go against one on a case. I think you need to continue to do that.”
With all of the work ahead of her, Flanigan hopes she can continue to cultivate her new-found hobby of travel.
“I’ve told myself I don’t mind working 12 hours days, but I want to travel,” she said. “It’s my firm belief that memories are made of places we go and things we do. I want to share that with my children.”