2011 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award Recipients

The ABA Pro Bono Publico Award is presented each year by the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to honor individual lawyers, law firms, law schools, government attorney offices, corporate law departments and other institutions in the legal profession that have enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to the poor.

On August 8, 2011, five recipients of the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award were honored at the Pro Bono Publico Awards Assembly Luncheon held during the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada.  In this issue, we highlight how the individual recipients became involved in pro bono and the contributions they have made to serve the poor throughout their professional lives.

Elena Park

For nearly ten years, Elena Park has provided pro bono legal counsel and representation to the indigent on complex immigration matters including work authorization, visa processing, asylum, cancellation of deportation, paths to legalization and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. She regularly devotes over 200 hours of pro bono time a year to her pro bono immigration practice. As an active member of her firm’s Pro Bono Committee and program, she has worked with Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Volunteers for the Indigent Project (VIP), and the ACLU.

Park has been driven by the desire to assist the arguably most impoverished, most needy, and least accepted segment of our population -- undocumented aliens. Her fight has been not only to assist in securing legal status in the United States, but also to help develop and support the immigration rights advocacy infrastructure in her community. To that end, she has volunteered a considerable amount of time teaching, educating, mentoring, lobbying and supporting pro bono agencies that help indigent clients on immigration matters.

Park has obtained legal status for clients in extremely difficult cases that no one else was willing to take on. Her efforts have been recognized by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation (Pro Bono Award 2011), Pennsylvania Bar Association (Pro Bono Award 2007 and 2010, Contribution to the Legal Community 2010) and the media (Legal Intelligencer 2007, Thomas Reuters Dec 2008). She traces her devotion to helping the indigent in immigration matters from her own personal background. A child of Korean immigrants, her parents came to this country with virtually nothing and struggled to make ends meet. Nevertheless, they instilled in her a strong work ethic, a drive for professional excellence, and the desire to help those in need. Park takes great personal and professional satisfaction in helping the needy from around the world achieve the American dream.

Henry Callaway

In 1989, Henry Callaway was appointed to the Mobile Bar Association’s (MBA) Pro Bono Committee. In 1996, he became its president, a post he would hold for seven of the next twelve years. During that time period, he transformed the Mobile Volunteer Lawyer’s Project (MVLP). In 1995, the program had 325 participating attorneys; by 2007, the figure had soared above 600. The number of cases referred out to attorneys for action also more than doubled, to 800.

In growing the MVLP, Callaway developed several innovative strategies to raise money and increase visibility. First, he spearheaded the MVLP’s change from a committee of the MBA to a 501(c)(3) corporation. He then oversaw the development of a more structured annual private bar campaign touting the tax advantages of giving as well as the needs of the organization and the population it serves. He presided over the MVLP’s successful application to become a United Way member agency, which generated tens of thousands of dollars of additional revenue.

Callaway persuaded his firm – Mobile’s largest -- to achieve and maintain 100% participation on the MVLP panel. He developed an intentional and sustained media campaign to promote the MVLP. He also oversaw the creation of a promotional DVD, wrote copy for television and radio public service announcements, and drove around the county identifying promising billboard sites to advertise MVLP services. He also created posters for buses, social service agencies and public schools.

On the state level, Callaway spearheaded the development of user-friendly forms for unrepresented citizens in many areas of the law such as family law and consumer matters. He heads a state bar committee which is working to revise Alabama’s court rules to allow lawyers to represent low- and middle-income clients on a limited scope, low-fee basis. Callaway also worked with Birmingham’s bar leaders to help that city revitalize its volunteer lawyers program and currently chairs the state’s Access to Justice Commission. As a result of the depth and breadth of his work, Callaway was named Alabama’s 2010 volunteer lawyer of the year.

Honorable Jay Zainey

In 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Jay Zainey founded H.E.L.P. (Homeless Experience Legal Protection) to provide pro bono legal services to the homeless community in New Orleans. Working with a local shelter, H.E.L.P. establishes a regularly scheduled clinic to offer free legal services to homeless individuals, provided by volunteer attorneys from firms around the city. As a result of the first program’s success, and the commitment of Judge Zainey to promote the model, H.E.L.P. has since expanded to 19 other cities. Judge Zainey personally traveled to each city to start these programs, met with the staff of the homeless shelters and with the volunteer lawyers, and provided free CLE seminars to the volunteer lawyers so that they could be effective legal advocates.

As a result of the H.E.L.P. Program, hundreds of lawyers have volunteered their time and talents throughout the year on a weekly rotating basis at homeless shelters to serve the homeless. Over 450 attorneys currently participate in the program across the country. In addition to his legal advocacy efforts for the homeless, Judge Zainey drives around the city of New Orleans on a regular basis with an ice-chest full of cold bottled waters, fruit drinks and granola bars to track down homeless individuals in order to offer them refreshments or a bite to eat.

Judge Zainey has a strong commitment to pro bono. As President of the Louisiana Bar Association he directed his leadership towards the expansion of private attorney involvement in pro bono to support access to justice. Judge Zainey also created the first State Bar Association Committee in the nation to provide legal referral services for the disabled and created the Community Involvement Committee – the first state bar association committee of its kind in the country. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his pro bono efforts and his work on behalf of the homeless. He currently is an officer of the Pro Bono Project of New Orleans.

Beyond his pro bono initiatives, Judge Zainey has initiated a number of initiatives in New Orleans geared toward improving the community. One project -- SOLACE – is a program in which lawyers and other members of the legal community can actively reach out and assist each other in times of personal need or loss. He has also created social service programs to assist the less fortunate. According to Judge Zainey’s son, he is a man who lives for others, not himself. He describes how on his father’s desk is a taped hand-written note that reads “We are responsible to each other.” Judge Zainey has spent his professional and personal life aspiring to this ideal.

O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Since the 1930s, O’Melveny has been at the forefront of a growing pro bono movement in Los Angeles. The firm was one of the first to charter a formal pro bono committee, and in 2006, launched its formal Pro Bono Initiative, solidifying the firm’s commitment to pro bono. In 2010, attorneys at O’Melveny and Myers devoted more than 83,000 hours of legal representation to pro bono matters, averaging approximately 120 hours per lawyer. This represented approximately 6.7% of the firm’s billable output and involved 75% of the firm’s lawyers. In the past year, more than 61% of the firm’s attorneys reported doing more than 20 hours of pro bono work. The firm also requires new attorneys to participate in at least one pro bono case in their first year at the firm.

The firm has worked with a large number of pro bono organizations on cases in a multitude of areas. The firm has represented food stamp applicants and recipients leading to a three-year Consent Decree establishing guidelines and deadlines with which Orange County, California Social Services Agency must comply. The firm has also worked with Bet Tzedek, trying to verdict the first case under a new California statue designed to protect victims of human trafficking. The firm’s lawyers also assisted Bet Tzedek with obtaining the recovery of substantial reparations from the German government for thousands of Holocaust survivors.

O’Melveny has partnered with Harvard and UCLA Law Schools to provide clinics to students in the area of appellate practice for indigent clients. The firm has also worked on immigration cases for a number of organizations, and has written an extensive training manual to teach pro bono attorneys how to represent detained immigrants in bond hearings, enabling these clients to escape the uncertainty of indefinite detention and to rejoin their families. The firm has worked on cases to promote gay rights, to facilitate adoption proceedings, and to promote the civil rights of prisoners, as well as many other areas of law. The firm has devoted thousands of hours each year to local prosecutors’ offices where budget constraints make it impossible for these offices to protect public safety concerns without assistance. O’Melveny also actively involves its corporate clients in participating in its important pro bono work.

Paul Weiss

Paul Weiss has a long history of pro bono work. In 2010, approximately 65% of Paul, Weiss’s attorneys performed 54,984 hours of pro bono work, representing approximately 5.5% of the firm’s total hours. The firm is one of only five firms that has been on the American Lawyer’s A-List for pro bono work from the beginning. In 2010, the firm moved up the A-List significantly, to number six, largely due to a 50 percent increase in pro bono hours in 2009.

The scope of the firm’s pro bono work is extensive. Since 2009, the firm has represented clients as part of the City Bar Justice Center of New York’s Immigrant Women & Children Project. The firm has also represented immigrant victims of domestic violent crimes and individuals seeking refuge from persecution from their countries of origin.

Paul Weiss also has made a substantial commitment to achieve justice in other areas. For example, the firm, along with other partners, founded a series of Veterans’ Legal Clinics in October 2007 to provide free legal advice to metropolitan area military veterans. Paul Weiss also partnered with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama to provide post-conviction representation to those who have received capital sentences in Alabama. In addition, the firm has devoted significant legal resources to Human Rights First, the Brennan Center for Justice and other groups on important impact matters on such issues as voting rights, same-sex marriage and the right to appointed counsel.

In 2010 alone, the firm and its individual lawyers were honored by The Legal Aid Society of New York City, Immigration Equality, Sanctuary for Families, the New York State Bar Association, DC Appleseed and the City Bar Justice Center for the breadth and scope of its pro bono work.

Special Recognition: Kathleen Hopkins

The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service presented a special Pro Bono Award to Kathleen Hopkins in recognition of her longstanding service to the Pro Bono Committee and her efforts to expand pro bono across the country.

Attorney Hopkins has been passionate about her involvement with the Pro Bono Committee and about the value of the Committee’s work to the legal profession and the ABA. She has served two terms on the Committee as a member and has subsequently found her way back to the Committee as a liaison from the Business Law Section, the ABA Board and, most recently, the General Practice, Small Firm and Solo Practice Division.

Champions are driven by something beyond the desire to win. Kathleen Hopkins is a “champion” of the Pro Bono Committee through her commitment and her steadfast support of the Committee’s mission. She has been an advocate for the Committee as the center of pro bono activity within the ABA, finding ways to bring the Committee’s expertise to enhance the pro bono work of a number of other ABA entities. Her vision, leadership and enthusiasm have resulted in the development of innovative projects and new ways of maximizing ABA resources. Some examples of the impact she has had include:

  • brokering a partnership between the Pro Bono Committee and the Business Law Section under which the Section’s Business Law Pro Bono Project was housed under the auspices of the Committee;
  • actively promoting the Committee’s National Celebration of Pro Bono within her state and local community, and working to develop Celebration partnerships;
  • promoting the Pro Bono Committee to the ABA Journal as a resource for stories relating to the public service of America’s lawyers; and
  • leading an effort to connect the Pro Bono Committee, the Commission on Immigration and the Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) project with the GP Solo and Small Firm Division.