The National Celebration of Pro Bono begins on Oct. 24 and will run through Oct. 30. The week serves as an opportunity to shine a light on the amazing pro bono work by lawyers, paralegals and law students from all across the United States.
Often seen as a professional responsibility among lawyers and other legal professionals, pro bono work — or legal counsel provided free-of-charge — serves a vital role in our nation’s justice system, bringing much-needed legal assistance to those who are often unable to pay for services. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), pro bono work is the individual ethical commitment each lawyer makes when they pass the bar exam and start practicing law.
The National Celebration of Pro Bono has occurred each year since 2009, and every year, the ABA encourages more lawyers, legal professionals and organizations to commit to pro bono causes and to celebrate and recognize the pro bono volunteer work that others in the legal community have done.
Amid the fallout of the housing market and the Great Recession of 2008, National Celebration of Pro Bono was developed by the ABA as a way to respond to the increasing need for pro bono services as economic conditions worsened for the majority of Americans. As the financial strain grew more and more dire, attorneys across the United States rose to the challenge to meet this unprecedented need.
For law firms and lawyers now looking to participate in the National Celebration of Pro Bono, the ABA asks participants to think strategically about local community needs, issues and programs and devise plans to assist those who are most vulnerable and in need of free legal assistance.
Since the ABA’s launch of National Celebration of Pro Bono 12 years ago, more than 10,000 pro bono events have been coordinated, supported and attended across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and Canada. According to the ABA, nearly 70% of the events held have been direct-service clinics, volunteer and recruitment events, or new initiative launches, making pro bono work a crucial vehicle for “broadening and deepening” services to Americans living in marginalized communities.
Recognizing the Pro Bono Work Done by Simmons Hanly Conroy
For its part, Simmons Hanly Conroy has dedicated itself to pro bono work year in and year out, having developed a can-do culture that focuses on giving back to those who live in the communities we call home — and beyond.
Among many instances of pro bono community legal advocacy, some highlights from recent years include the following.
Deborah Rosenthal Helps Guatemalan Boy
In a high-profile pro bono case, Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Deborah Rosenthal came to the assistance of a 15-year-old Guatemalan refugee who, after being human-trafficked into the United States, was subject to harsh living conditions in a U.S. border detention center.
With Deborah’s assistance, the boy was able to find a sponsor family with whom to live in Minneapolis. Shortly after this case, ICE was ordered to release all migrant children who were living in family detention centers given the unprecedented risks of COVID-19.
Thanks to the firm’s hard work, its pro bono efforts ended up being at the forefront of an important change in the legal landscape regarding family and child detention in the United States during COVID-19. Click here to learn more about this case.
SHC Wins John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Award
During National Celebration of Pro Bono week in 2020, Simmons Hanly Conroy was honored with the John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Award from the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).
“Our attorneys and staff have donated countless pro bono hours dedicated to ensuring people from every walk of life have access to equitable justice,” said Assistant Managing Shareholder Amy Garrett who runs the firm’s pro bono committee. “Our pro bono programs serve veterans, children, the homeless, domestic abuse victims, immigrants, foster children, and people seeking a second chance through the expungement process.”
About the award, Firm Chairman John Simmons said, “Our firm believes in giving our best not only to serve our clients but also to those living in surrounding communities, and we are honored and humbled to be recognized by the ISBA.”
Championing Second Chance Sundays
Beginning in 2016, Simmons Hanly Conroy led efforts to help organize the Madison County Expungement Day by partnering with Madison County agencies to help hundreds of people expunge and/or seal nonviolent offenses from their records.
The annual event continues today with Second Chance Saturdays — now organized by the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid (Land of Lincoln).
In addition to Second Chance Sundays, the attorneys at Simmons Hanly Conroy often represent prisoner rights cases on a pro bono basis.
Our track record of legal advocacy has resulted in numerous rewards of recognition:
- 2020 John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Award, Illinois State Bar Association
- 2019, Martin Luther King Jr. Five-Star Humanitarian Platinum Award/Key to the City of Venice, Illinois
- 2018, Corporate Philanthropy Award Winner, St. Louis Business Journal
- 2017, Pro Bono Spotlight Showcase, Public Interest Law Initiative
- 2016 Pro Bono Firm of the Year, Third Judicial Circuit Court Pro Bono Committee
- 2012 The Joseph R. Bartylak Pro Bono Service Award, Madison County Bar Association
- 2008, John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Award, Illinois State Bar Associations
Upcoming Pro Bono Event
Soon, Simmons Hanly Conroy will also be hosting a “Road to Work” event alongside the Alton Police Department and the Madison County State Attorney’s Office. The event will offer local residents the opportunity to receive legal counsel for traffic-related misdemeanors and warrants, with the goal of decreasing some of the barriers to employment faced by individuals with criminal records.
About the event, Madison County Circuit Clerk Tom McRae said, “The event is a win-win for everyone involved. The hope is to assist those with minor traffic violations so they can get their licenses back and be productive wage earners.”
The event will be held on Nov. 4, 2021, at the Alton Police Department. To sign up for the event, visit tiny.cc/RoadtoWork — pre-registration is highly recommended.
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