- University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia
- J.D. – 2017
- Cum laude
- Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
- B.A – 2009
- With Distinction
Lesley O’Neill’s passion for helping survivors of childhood sex abuse arrived via a winding path that began with an interest in constitutional law during college. That interest led to a focus on public policy, a few years working as a paralegal for the United States Department of Justice, and a desire to explore a career in international development. After leaving the DOJ, she joined the Peace Corps in Malawi to broaden her perspective, where she realized that what she wanted was a direct and fast-paced career helping those in need back home and resolved to become a lawyer. The combination of these experiences and her commitment to achieving justice for injured people make her an effective advocate for PCVA clients.
Lesley’s work with the PCVA team involves cases against the Catholic Church, foster care systems, schools, and other non-profit organizations on behalf of survivors who were abused as children under their care. Having spent three years as a corporate defense lawyer before joining PCVA, her viewpoint of both sides of a case is a critical tool. It helps her get the necessary information from clients to plan and manage litigation strategies, discovery, persuasive arguments, and draft concise and compelling motions and briefs.
Listening to victims of childhood sexual abuse in various cases and circumstances has given Lesley great appreciation for the many ways extensive trauma can manifest itself. She understands that for some clients, although the event may be decades passed, the feelings of shame, confusion, sadness, distrust, and pain can be buried deep but sometimes never truly fade. To get the vital details to present to judges, juries, or insurance companies, she is willing to give victims the time they need to tell her their story. Her approach is gentle, yet honest. She works to build client trust carefully and put their mind at ease.
For Lesley, while obtaining financial compensation for victims is critical, achieving some semblance of justice for them is essential too. She appreciates that PCVA doesn’t treat their clients like files; they are people with real challenges and lifelong struggles that deserve rigorous, thoughtful, and high-quality representation. She feels rewarded knowing that the team at PCVA is not content to sit back and accept the system as is. They are committed to working for systemic changes that make it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward and have their day in court.
An active volunteer in her communities over the years, Lesley has spearheaded pro bono efforts and has volunteered her time to address landlord-tenant and domestic violence issues for people who could not otherwise afford legal counsel. During law school, she was a member of the Georgia Law Review, received an Equal Justice Foundation fellowship and interned at the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta, Georgia, where she represented indigent clients on death row. She also handled habeas work through the Capital Assistance Project and was a member of the Appellate Litigation Clinic at UGA Law. Additionally, Lesley was inducted into the UGA chapter of the Blue Key Honor Society, which recognizes a few graduate students each year who have achieved distinction in scholarship, leadership, and service.
- Morris, Manning & Martin LLP, Associate Attorney, 2017 to 2020