A Fond Farewell to a Friend: Many Thanks to Stephen Seely
By Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director King County Law Library
When Stephen Seely started as Outreach Services Attorney at the King County Law Library, he was not long out of law school. He’d practiced for a bit and decided he’d like to try something different. Having worked in libraries throughout his undergrad and law school years he thought that perhaps working in a law library might suit his style. Was he ever right! Stephen shot the lights out here at KCLL putting the full extent of his diligence, smarts, and good humor to any task at hand. When our good friend Laurie Miller decided to retire as Director of the Pierce County Law Library in December, against my own better judgment I had to encourage Stephen to apply. To no one’s surprise, Stephen was a shoo-in for the position. I’m so proud of all that Stephen accomplished in the four years that he worked at KCLL and I know he’ll do a fabulous job with the Pierce County Law Library. That said, Stephen leaves some very big shoes to fill. He’s such an integral part of the KCLL fabric that it’s hard to imagine work without him. We like to joke that he’s breaking up the band. In many ways we’re not kidding.
He Had Us at Hello
Even when Stephen was interviewing for his job here at KCLL there were several signs that he was a perfect fit. Instead of just using a generic background for his slide deck during his teaching presentation, Stephen took the time to find a KCLL branded slide deck from our website and created a class that looked exactly as it would if he were actually teaching as a KCLL instructor. It was a small thing, but it caught all of our attention because it displayed forethought, attention to detail, and marketing savvy. Qualities that can often be hard to demonstrate in an interview, but which Stephen managed to do in a subtle and creative way. The other thing that I’ll always remember from Stephen’s interview was his response to a question about finding and working with unfamiliar resources. Stephen related a story about shearing the side view mirror off his car. Being an undergrad student without a lot of disposable income, he decided to try to fix it himself instead of taking it to a shop. He told a story of going to his college library, finding the database with the Chilton’s manuals and successfully replacing the mirror using the Chilton’s instructions. Again, a very savvy move on Stephen’s part — not only showing that he knows his way around a library database but also letting us know that he is mechanically inclined and able to fix things. I’m sure he took a look around our century old workspace and thought — I have just the anecdote for this place.
No Stone Unturned
When Stephen approaches a work project, he goes all in. Part of his work as Outreach Services Attorney involves creating self-help packets for our pro se patrons. The amount of research, consultation with experts, and time spent thinking about end-user experience that went into each of the packets he created was a marvel to behold. He would do a deep dive into all the ins and outs and possible twists and turns of the issue when constructing the packets. But his true gift was his ability to synthesize very complex concepts and procedures into a concise, plain language set of instructions and forms that are easy for people with very little experience with the legal process to get their heads around. I’m still in awe of his replevin packet.
He did the same thing with his work on our Let Us Do Your Research service. Stephen would leave no stone unturned when slicing and dicing a research problem but would present his research findings in a clear and cogent manner. During these research project deep dives, Stephen’s curiosity was often piqued. One project led him to discover a method for “guerrilla disbarment”  by presenting opposing counsel with an honorary sheriff’s deputy award. Did I mention that Stephen has a great sense of humor?
Other Duties as Assigned
Stephen has great attention to detail. We’re talking Sherlock Holmes level attention to detail. Stephen took it upon himself to make the rounds of the library several times a day. Nothing would escape his notice. Anything out of place or purposefully “stashed” in the library would be quickly found. I recall him discovering that someone had tried to tamper with an electrical box because the tiniest strip of tape was out of place.
In addition to his keen eye for detail, cleanliness, and order, Stephen was also an enthusiast of safety and emergency procedures. He was our floor warden for fire drills and made sure that all of our emergency policies and manuals were up-to-date and that we had clear lines of contact with the county. During our COVID lockdown, he kept us all apprised of the latest information on vaccines, procedures for staying safe, and let us know about any COVID related court or executive orders as soon as they were released. Yet, as a colleague mentioned, he never seemed to get down or flummoxed. He was focused on best practices for the library and for staff, but his focus was always accompanied by a smile and a “que sera, sera” shrug.
An Analogy for Every Occasion
When the KCLL staff and I talk about Stephen, the thing that always comes up right away is his amazing repertoire of analogies that he can pull up out of thin air. Stephen was excellent at assisting patrons at the reference desk because he could always come up with the perfect analogy to make something very complex easily understood. I can’t count the number of times I’ve overheard people that he’s working with tell him that what other people were trying to explain to them finally makes sense. Often the analogies were silly or arcane but they were always spot on. Did I mention that Stephen has the rare gift in an extremely talented and capable person of not taking himself too seriously?
À Bientôt Stephen!
Since Stephen is just going down the road to Tacoma, we won’t actually say farewell. Instead, as the French say, we’ll see you soon. Congratulations on your new position from all your friends at the King County Law Library. You will be missed.
Have Questions or Need Help?
If you would have questions about the Let Us Do Your Research Program or any of the other services that the King County Law Library provides, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Stephen Seely, Guerilla Disbarment: An Unusual Tactic for the Removal of Opposing Counsel, King County Bar Bulletin Nov 2022