ABA honors contributions to volunteer legal services with 2015 Pro Bono Publico Awards

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service will recognize two individual lawyers, one law firm, one law school and one business legal department with its 2015 Pro Bono Publico Awards on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.  In addition, two national organizations will receive special pro bono awards for their contributions in expanding pro bono legal services.

ABA President William C. Hubbard will host the 33rd annual Pro Bono Publico Awards luncheon. “The recipients of the 2015 Pro Bono Publico Awards demonstrate exceptional commitment to volunteer legal services for our most vulnerable citizens,” Hubbard said. “They have invested in their communities in a powerful way and have made access to justice a reality for those who are most in need.”

The 2015 honorees are:

• Daniel L. Brown is a partner at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in the Business Trial Practice Group in New York. He does extensive pro bono work. Brown represented a class of more than 900,000 persons with disabilities in New York City in the case, Brooklyn Center for the Disabled, et al. v. Bloomberg, et al. The case was considered a landmark victory for thousands with disabilities and resulted in the most comprehensive disaster plan aimed at improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities.

• Leslie S. Silverstein is a solo practitioner in Portland, Maine, where she focuses on Social Security disability cases. Since opening her firm in 2001, Silverstein has donated thousands of hours representing low income people without access to civil legal representation. She has represented more than 200 clients over the past seven years through the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project on the Domestic Violence Panel. She has also volunteered as a trainer for the MVLP program. In this role, she encourages new lawyers to join the Domestic Violence Panel, where she serves as a mentor.

• Baylor University School of Law was established in 1857 and was the first law school in Texas. The school has developed several pro bono clinical opportunities for students. Recently, they established a Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals Immigration Clinic to assist undocumented young people with deportation relief. The school’s People’s Law School offers a half-day program with volunteer lawyers designed to assist the community about their legal rights. The school has a broad pro bono/public service program, which has received recognition for its commitment to providing legal services to the underserved community.

• Jones Day is a global legal institution with more than 2,400 lawyers spanning five continents. The firm took up the cause to help in the immigration crisis of unaccompanied children and women fleeing violence in Central America to U.S. borders. Jones Day sent teams of lawyers to military bases where immigrants were held and conducted “Know your Rights” presentations to help screen cases. They also sent teams to detention facilities in New Mexico and Texas. The firm has dedicated nearly 10,000 hours, which is valued at $5 million in fees, and has incurred significant costs for travel, experts and incidentals.

• United Airlines Legal Department is headquarted in Chicago and its lawyers have worked diligently to help advance justice for immigrants, especially youth and children. Its pro bono program provides a range of legal services for indigent individuals as well as financial support for legal services. Last year, United lawyers took on an asylum case in response to the Central American crisis of unaccompanied children and women fleeing Central America to the U.S. borders. They helped one teenage girl obtain asylum after she fled Honduras to escape brutal abuse by an older man, and they are seeking asylum for another teenage girl who escaped from domestic violence and a forced marriage in Mali. That case is pending the court’s decision.

The Association of Pro Bono Counsel, which supports the professional development of law firm pro bono managers, and the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals, which provides training and support to the directors of bar association, legal services and independent pro bono programs nationwide, will receive special recognition from the ABA.  The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service provides national leadership in policy, outreach, implementation and technical assistance activities designed to encourage, expand and improve pro bono activities and programs.

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