Vani Singhal and Craig Buchan spotlighted as TLC Superheroes
Tulsa Lawyers for Children is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure the effective and zealous representation of abused and neglected children in Tulsa County by recruiting, training and assisting volunteer attorneys.
To the kids they serve, these volunteers are more than lawyers. They’re TLC Superheroes.
At the organization’s recent Breakfast of Champions volunteer recognition event in November, Tulsa Lawyers for Children spotlighted McAfee & Taft attorneys Vani Singhal and Craig Buchan as TLC Superheroes for their work with children.
Vani Singhal‘s heart for TLC follows her wherever she goes – from a smaller firm to McAfee Taft, and even through a sabbatical where she used the extra time to pick up more TLC cases.
“I’ve always been involved in community service and giving back with a nonprofit in some way – either as a volunteer, or on the board, or as a funder,” said Vani. “Certainly now, as a mother, my passion is for children. When I heard about children in abusive situations I felt like there was something I could do to help make a difference.”
As a mother, working on deprived cases has proven thought provoking for Vani. Devoted to providing the best for her children, seeing less fortunate children has struck a discordant note.
“I talk to my family about the children I represent,” said Vani. “I don’t share all the details, but my children need to know there are children who might be suffering in their own schools. I hope to make my children aware and more compassionate. You never know what other people are going through.”
Volunteering to represent abused children hasn’t always been easy for Vani. In her early days, she seemed to always get children the same age as her own. Observing children in a vastly different world than her own inspired her. The disparity she observed became the driving force behind her continued volunteer efforts.
“There’s one example that stands out because I remember it so strongly,” she said. “A little girl—she was the exact same age as my daughter. I remember getting my daughter ready for preschool. My daughter attended a private school. I would send her off and then go visit my client. My client couldn’t even get into a CAP program. I remember thinking, ‘Why does this child who’s just as smart and talented as my child not get the same opportunities?’ I feel like I have something to give by advocating for my clients and this is my way to give back and make a difference.
“As a TLC volunteer, sometimes I make a difference in the courtroom and sometimes I make a difference in a child’s life,” said Vani. “A year ago, I had a case where the little girl was about nine, and she was very sharp. I was trying to explain my role to her. She looked at me and she said, ‘Wait! I get a lawyer? You’re not my mom’s lawyer?’ I think maybe in that moment I made a difference to her. Maybe 10 years later, 15 years later if she ever encounters the legal system, she’ll remember she had a lawyer.”
Vani encourages her fellow lawyers to get involved. “My day-to-day work is intellectually interesting and stimulating,” she said. “TLC offers another outlet for professional satisfaction – sometimes I think I can say ‘I feel like I saved someone’s life today!’”
Vani was recently recognized at the TLC volunteer event with the “Life Cereal” award for taking on a very difficult case and working diligently to make life better for her profoundly autistic client. The abuse in the child’s life was compounded by poverty, his physical and mental limitations, and the lack of resources.
“She has fought gallantly to ensure his health and to enroll him in a better school,” said Elizabeth Hocker, executive director with Tulsa Lawyers for Children. “I am in awe of her spirit. I want others to know just how wonderful these McAfee Taft people are. They truly are heroes for children.”
When McAfee & Taft trial lawyer Craig Buchan got the call for his first TLC case, a certain fact stood out, making it almost like fate. “My clients were twins born on my birthday, October 18,”said Craig. “I thought, ‘This is absolutely something I should do.’”
Initially, the goal was to reunite the parents and the children, but events transformed the case to a termination proceeding.
“The best interest of these twins is my job, and their best interest is served by terminating parental rights and allowing the foster parents to proceed with adoption,” he said.
For Craig, taking on a TLC case stemmed from an innate dedication to his community. Through the course of his career as a corporate litigator, his expertise and success always led back to a desire to serve.
“As you progress in your career, there comes a point where you want to give back,” said Craig. “I went to a TLC Lunch and Learn event last fall and was very moved by the organization. I felt compelled to start volunteering. It was that simple.”
Being witness to the tragedies underlying deprived cases serves to strengthen his commitment and wholehearted efforts to the cause.
“Children are victims of circumstance,” he said. “If we can make a difference and get them on the right track, we can get them out of this vicious cycle of poverty or crime. That’s why I do this. Making just a small effort at this level could make a huge difference down the road.”
Want to unleash your legal or financial super powers for some of Tulsa’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens? To learn more about donating your time or resources, visit https://tulsalawyersforchildren.org/