Amy Keck represented hundreds of underprivileged clients during her 11-year legal career, winning a remarkable 94 percent of her cases, according to her associates.

In 2009, she received the Thomas P. Downing Award, an honor given out annually to an individual in Maine who has provided exceptional legal services.

Ms. Keck died Saturday at the Hospice House in Auburn after a seven-year struggle with colon cancer. She was 36.

“He (Downing) wasn’t flashy. He was just a great lawyer who did a lot of good for low-income people,” said Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance. “Amy was the same way. She’s not a lawyer whose name is going to be in the newspaper.”

Ms. Keck spent most of her childhood years in Brunswick, graduating from Brunswick High School in 1992. She studied political science, psychology and Greek at Mount Holyoke College, graduating in 1996. She graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1999.

After law school, she went to work for Pine Tree Legal as a staff attorney in the Bangor office, and more recently in the organization’s Lewiston office.

Pine Tree is a statewide organization that provides free services to low-income Mainers who are experiencing noncriminal problems. Pine Tree handles domestic violence cases, family law, landlord and tenant disputes, and foreclosures.

Heald said Pine Tree, which has six offices, functions a lot like a hospital emergency room, dealing with whatever crisis comes through the door.

“People who are drawn to work for Pine Tree Legal have a real appreciation of how important it is to make the justice system work. I don’t think Amy ever considered working anywhere else but at Pine Tree,” Heald said.

Realizing that law offices can be intimidating, Ms. Keck redecorated the client waiting rooms to make them more inviting for clients and their children.

She also welcomed the challenge of bringing order to chaos. She would spend her own time tidying up some of the offices of Pine Tree’s more disorganized attorneys, putting mountains of paperwork into filing systems.

Heald provided a post from Ms. Keck’s website on the day she received the Downing Award on Nov. 12, 2009.

“It is a true honor to receive this award,” she wrote. “The work we do at Pine Tree isn’t always recognized the way we might like. This recognition makes me feel like I really have made a mark in this world, one that will be remembered long after I am gone.”

Ms. Keck goes on to say that the money from the award, combined with Pine Tree raising more than $2,700 on her behalf, covered the expenses of a trip to Florida.

While in the Florida Keys, she swam with dolphins and learned about the animals’ behavior at a dolphin research facility.

“She had a lifelong interest in swimming with dolphins,” Heald said. “One of the great things we learned from Amy is that you identify your dreams and you go after them.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]