By Katie Fallon
While many lawyers offer pro bono services to individuals or nonprofit organizations, one local attorney was recently recognized for assisting the government of Sandy Springs.
Scott Schulten, a graduate of the University of Kentucky Law School, has been a Sandy Springs resident since 1995. He began his Atlanta law firm-Schulten, Ward and Turner- in 1986 with one associate and one secretary. Specializing in commercial real estate transactions, the firm now includes 23 associates and 25 other staffers.
Schulten, 55, first considered putting his legal skills to work for the city after Sandy Springs was incorporated in 2005. At the time, Fulton County officials said the parks within the city limits would be sold. If the city could afford the purchase, Fulton would facilitate the sale, but if not, the parks could have been sold to a third party.
“That seemed like a mistake to me,” said Schulten.
The father of three grown children said he went online to find out who the city’s attorney was and then volunteered to help city attorney Wendell Willard oppose the sale of the parks. Schulten offered to donate $20,000 worth of free legal services to the city to facilitate obtaining the parks and four fire stations.
If the parks had to be sold to a third party, he thought it would be possible to have corporate sponsors for the property much like many professional sports stadiums.
“If there was no way around it, I thought that was a way to go,” Schulten said.
While Fulton County eventually decided to transfer the parks, as well as the local fire station properties, to the city for a nominal value, there was still a lot of work to be done with finding land deeds and establishing ownership. This past December, the deeds to the parks were actually signed in Schulten’s law offices.
“It was very exciting,” Schulten said.
Currently, Sandy Springs now controls all of its parks and is in the process of completing the final transfer of one fire station. As a Sandy Springs resident, Scuhlten said it was gratifying not only to be able to witness the fruits of his labor every time he drove past a park or saw a fire truck racing down the street, but also to be able to work with city officials.
“It was an honor to be able to work on this actually,” Schulten said. “The mayor is fun to work with and Wendell [Willard] is great.”
Schulten, however, does not take all the credit for his work. He said many other staffers at his firm did a lot of leg work to help research deeds and other technicalities. In fact, because the process required as much work as it did, Schulten did end up having to bill the city for a portion of his services over his promise of $20,000. The bill was for approximately $10,000.
Nonetheless, city officials remained extremely appreciative of Schulten’s services.
Mayor Eva Galambos said Schulten’s work ended up being more time consuming and entailing many more hours than he thought.
“It was definitely valuable,” Galambos said. “We think he did a lot of wonderful work for free. This involved a huge amount of work that real property lawyers do.”
Schulten said he thought it made sense to offer his pro bono services, an act he said most lawyers will perform annually, to a government, especially one for the city in which he lives. He said he is ready to assist Sandy Springs again if the city needs his help.