Michael Goldenkranz was the recipient of the 2023 WSBA Apex Award for Pro Bono and Public Service and the 2023 King County Bar Association Pro Bono Award. Now retired, Goldenkranz was formerly a health care attorney and part of a hospital’s executive team. After working with a police department outside of Boston in community affairs and as a deputy prosecutor in San Francisco, he moved to Seattle in 1980 with his cockatiel, Baretta, to law clerk/bailiff for the late King County Superior Court Judge Stephen Reilly. After several years with a general practice firm, Goldenkranz went in house to Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska and later to Good Samaritan Hospital. But he loved his evening gig teaching at the paralegal programs at Highline and Edmonds Community Colleges. Goldenkranz later served on his neighborhood’s community board and was active in the Seattle Council PTSA and the Seattle school levy group. He enjoyed helping co-coach high school mock court teams and helping as a volunteer substitute teacher. Having just turned 70, he’s been fortunate to have volunteered for almost 20 years with KCBA Pro Bono and served on its related committees.
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With my graduate school applications for clinical psychology ready to roll, a faculty advisor gave me cause to pause. My professor said that he’d be doing me a “disservice” by recommending me to grad school in psychology. He thought I was more suited by “temperament and nature” to be an advocate and should consider lobbying, law, social work, or maybe politics. So I sought counsel from the magnificent bronze statue of my university’s namesake (Justice Louis D. Brandeis), worked with a police department, got over myself, and realized he was right.
My dad, who volunteered nonstop into his 90s. He used to constantly tell my brothers and me, “The world does not revolve around you.” Also, the gifted children’s show host, Mr. Rogers. He beautifully explained the Jewish value that guides me: “We are all called to be ‘Tikkun Olam,’ repairers of creation.”
I volunteer almost weekly with KCBA’s Southeast Legal Clinic. If I can connect with, help, and provide hope to people who often share with me just the tip of their personal iceberg, it’s a blessing. To watch a client leave the clinic with a bit more spring in their step because they were heard, empowered, and given options when they didn’t think they had any, we as volunteers are fortunate and consider that a success.
What would people be surprised to learn about you outside of your career or volunteering?
I ran several marathons, sang doo wop on stage with some renowned a capella fellas, and did three Friday nights at Seattle’s Comedy Underground club on a dare. Since I was very young, my extended family bonded around humor, like the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, W.C. Fields, and Laurel and Hardy. And that my pickle ball serve is lame.
What book have you read more than once that you’d recommend?
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It’s about learning what’s important in life, letting go of the rest, and becoming a “mensch.”
What’s your favorite word?
How would your family and friends describe you?
A big nudge with an even bigger heart. Or maybe vice versa. And a silly, doting grandpa.