Legal Aid of Western Michigan announces 2022 Pro Bono Award winners

Legal Aid of Western Michigan honored the law firm Gruel Mills Nims & Pylman, PLLC with the 2022 Michael S. Barnes Award; and attorney Charles E. Burpee, of Warner Norcross + Judd, with the 2022 Justice in Action Award. Both Gruel Mills and Burpee have distinguished themselves through pro bono advocacy on behalf of West Michigan client communities.

The Michael S. Barnes Award recognizes a law firm or an attorney who has made significant pro bono contributions benefiting legal aid clients. Michael S. Barnes, a partner with the law firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, was a dominant force in providing legal aid and pro bono service to LAWM’s client communities.

“It can be a hard problem, but also a very happy one, to select individual law firms and attorneys from among our many, dedicated pro bono supporters,” said Legal Aid Executive Director Pam Hoekwater.

“For decades we have counted on Gruel Mills. They volunteer on challenging cases. They have generously shared their time and expertise with our attorneys. And they are leaders in our legal community.
When we at LAWM call, Gruels Mills answers. For these reasons and many more the law firm’s attorneys and staff deserve this prestigious honor.”

The Justice in Action Award, which LAWM will present for the first time this year, highlights a pro bono volunteer’s or law office’s exceptional contributions to serving pro bono clients in the past year.

LAWM will present the awards to Gruel Mills and Mr. Burpee at its annual Barnes Award Ceremony & Pro Bono Reception, taking place in Grand Rapids on Oct. 20. For more information email

Legal Aid of Western Michigan is a nonprofit law firm serving 17 counties from five regional offices. ILAWM is headquartered in Grand Rapids, with offices in Holland, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, and St. Joseph


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