Pro Bono: A Lot to Celebrate

Last week, as part of the American Bar Association’s coordinated effort to showcase the great difference pro bono makes, we hosted our third annual Pro Bono Celebration.  This gave us opportunity to highlight some of our community partners.  We celebrated with balloons and cake in the conference center and heard from Beth Cordes Thompson, Director of Wisconsin English Language Partners of Wisconsin and a recent beneficiary of the Marquette Legal Initiative for Nonprofit Corporations’ services;  Gerri Sheets-Howard, Director of the House of Peace where the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic (MVLC) is in its tenth year of operation; Jim Duff, Director of Milwaukee County Veterans’ Service Office where the MVLC has hosted a clinic since 2009; Dr. Luis “Tony” Baez, Director of the Council for Spanish Speakers where the MVLC has operated a clinic since 2008; and John Barrett, Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts, where our clinic has run since 2009. These speakers are pictured from left to right in the photo accompanying this post. I heard from multiple attendees that they were refueled after hearing about the reach of the legal services our law students and a dedicated cadre of volunteer attorneys provide.

And just a week prior to the Pro Bono Celebration, we held a one-day Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic (MVLC) at the second annual Project Homeless Connect.  The event, organized by Community Advocates, Inc., was hosted at Marquette’s Alumni Memorial Union, where 65 service providers set up shop for the day to reach some of Milwaukee’s homeless.  240 people attended the event and benefitted from the services that included everything from vision screening to haircuts to driver’s license recovery.  More than 10% of the attendees sat down to talk to one of the volunteer lawyers and law students at our clinic for the day.

Now we’re looking forward to our upcoming celebration for Lori Zahorodny, Program Assistant for the MVLC.  She will be recognized at the Wisconsin Law Journal’s Unsung Heroes event on November 18th for her outstanding contribution, critical support, and vision for the MVLC.  It’s hard to imagine someone more deserving of this honor than Lori.

This coming year will be filled with reflection and visioning as we celebrate the MLVC’s tenth anniversary.  Within this past decade of providing free legal services, we’ve spread our clinics to multiple points in the community and have watched student interest in pro bono work steadily rise.  We now greet attorney volunteers at the clinics who were once student volunteers, giving us no doubt that this culture of pro bono helps shape the Marquette Lawyer.  Now that’s something to celebrate.

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