Challenging Lawyers To Make A Difference

Sunday, October 1, 2006 - 01:00

To honor lawyers' pro bono efforts and to educate the public and the legal community about how attorneys are using their unique skills to improve the lives of those less fortunate, The Chicago Bar Association (CBA) and The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) are co-sponsoring Pro Bono Week 2006: Challenging Lawyers to Make a Difference, from October 16 through 20. In official proclamations, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley recently designated this week as Pro Bono Week in Illinois and Chicago.

Members of the greater Chicago legal community are changing people's lives every day by donating thousands of hours in free legal services and by financially supporting legal aid organizations throughout the area. These attorneys assist the most vulnerable children and adults in their community with a range of legal issues that include child support, consumer fraud, elder abuse, civil rights, domestic violence, housing discrimination, and a range of other issues that are often critical to their safety and independence. 'Many lawyers generously devote their time to pro bono service,' CBA President Kevin Durkin said, 'but the need to do more in this area is still great.'

Like their counterparts in law firms, many in-house counsel contribute countless hours of pro bono service. Matthew C. Joly, Senior Counsel, Sears Holdings Management Corp., describes his experience, 'After years in subsidized housing, my pro bono client, M, qualified for a special program for low-income, first-time home buyers. She spent more than a year looking before she found the home she wanted. Although her closing was complicated because of special financing grants, the developer's mistake and an old City tax lien, the extra work was worth it. M went from being a renter to a home owner. She is building equity for her retirement and a legacy for her children. Now she can make her own decisions on how she wants to live.'

As part of the CBF's comprehensive strategy to improve access to justice for those who are impacted by poverty, abuse and discrimination, Pro Bono Week serves to more fully engage the legal community in the quest to fulfill our nation's promise of equal justice for allThe week's events, highlighted by the CBA Young Lawyers Section Pro Bono Fair on October 19 (co-sponsored by the CBF, Exelon, Jenner & Block and the Public Interest Law Initiative) emphasize the CBA and CBF's belief that, by working together, the legal community can make great strides towards ensuring that the justice system is accessible to everyone.

Pro Bono Week will feature several events for attorneys, showcasing available pro bono opportunities andconnecting lawyers to legal aid organizations while highlighting the tremendous impact their efforts can have on the lives of their clients. This year's Pro Bono Week is chaired by Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, and Pamela Sakowicz Menaker, Communications Partner at Clifford Law Offices.