CBA Record Sept-Oct 2019
to provide services to those who are unable to afford them” (emphasis added). While “pro bono” can be applied to the voluntary services of a number of professions, an online search of the phrase typically yields references to the voluntary services of law- yers. I am incredibly proud to be part of a profession that is known for its members using their skills to provide services to those unable to afford them. This is, in fact, one of the reasons I became a lawyer. It is a profession that allows me to use my skills not only to provide for my family, but also to provide for my community. Last year I was on a panel of lawyers and was asked to talk about my most rewarding client engagement. I thought about my then-21 years of practice as a corporate and securities lawyer, and the many businesses I had represented in complicated transac- tions. I thought about an acquisition that made big news in the Wall Street Journal, and about how I helped a household-name appliance company establish operations in the United States. But after a few minutes,
Over the years I have been blessed to have the opportunity to use my legal skills not only to do middle-market mergers and acquisitions, but also to help a woman save her home, employees receive the past due wages owed to them, a young man expunge his criminal record, a senior citizen prepare a will and healthcare power of attorney, and a young man obtain his DACA status. I was also able to use my corporate legal skills to serve as pro bono legal counsel to impactful nonprofit organizations including the Erie Neighborhood House, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and the Illinois Legisla- tive Latino Council Foundation. While the law can at times be a challeng- ing and demanding profession, it is indeed a privilege to be a lawyer. However, with privilege comes duty and responsibility. It is our duty and responsibility to give of our skills for the public good, to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, to do pro bono. Thanks to all of you who regularly give freely of yourselves and your services to those most in need.
it hit me: the most personally rewarding matter I had ever handled was not even a transaction – it was a pro bono litigation matter. It was a case in which I represented a woman who was seeking to change her name on her son’s birth certificate. The incorrect name on her son’s birth certifi- cate was creating problems as she sought to enroll him in school. I filed suit against the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to obtain a court order directing the IDPH to change the mother’s name on the child’s birth certificate. After a brief trial, we received a favorable judgment and a court order directing IDPH to correct the mother’s name on the birth certificate. Almost 20 years later, I can still recall how grateful the woman was for my help. While I have been fortunate to have had many wonderful clients who greatly appreciated the service our firm provided, there was something special about helping someone who couldn’t afford to hire me and whose life was directly impacted by my work.
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