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About the Award

The Section initiated the National Public Service Award in 1994 as part of its pro bono efforts.  The ABA Business Law Section National Public Service Award recognizes significant pro bono legal contributions of law firms, corporate law departments and individual business lawyers that demonstrate a commitment to providing legal services to individuals and entities that could not otherwise afford them.

Past recipients have demonstrated dedication to the development or delivery of pro bono legal services at the trial, appellate, and Supreme Court level, contributed significant work toward developing innovative approaches to the delivery of pro bono legal services, and/or provided sustained pro bono legal counsel to nonprofit organizations or to micro and small business enterprises in aid of community development.

Nomination Process

Nominations for 2025 will open in January of 2025.

Applicants may self-nominate. Submissions may be considered for the three upcoming years.  Please contact Chad Johannes ([email protected] or 312-988-6027) with any questions.

2024 Award Recipients

Bass, Berry & Sims PLC

Bass, Berry & Sims PLC has demonstrated a profound commitment to pro bono legal services, particularly through its revitalized Pro Bono Program launched in 2019. The firm has been pivotal in challenging wrongful convictions in partnership with the Tennessee Innocence Project (TIP), leading to the release of three wrongfully convicted clients in 2023 alone, after decades of incarceration. These efforts reflect a deep investment of time, with more than 30 attorneys and staff dedicating over 4,000 hours to these cases. Additionally, the firm’s transactional attorneys have embraced pro bono opportunities, effectively aiding individuals and nonprofit organizations, such as conducting name change projects for the LGBTQ+ community and obtaining asylum for Afghan refugees, integrating their specialized skills into meaningful community service.

Bass, Berry & Sims has also significantly increased its pro bono hours, logging over 32,000 hours in the last two years, which represents a 166% increase since the program’s relaunch. As impressive as this is, it only scratches the surface of the firm’s impact, which can also be measured in the lives changed and communities transformed through their work. Their attorneys have engaged in varied pro bono activities, from supporting marginalized groups seeking asylum or name changes to aiding nonprofit organizations like the PURE Academy and Harvest Hands Community Development Corporation. These activities not only address immediate legal needs but also contribute to systemic change by empowering underprivileged groups and supporting nonprofit missions aimed at community development and social change.

Sara T. Ghadiri

Sara T. Ghadiri has been awarded the National Public Service Award for her outstanding dedication and proactive approach in providing pro bono legal services to immigrant clients. As the Pro Bono Counsel at Chapman and Cutler LLP, Ms. Ghadiri not only takes on additional immigration cases with zeal but also inspires her colleagues to engage in pro bono work. Her enthusiasm and leadership have significantly impacted her firm, turning it into a hub for immigration law advocacy. Ms. Ghadiri serves as an in-house expert on complex immigration matters, tirelessly educating herself and her team to pursue all available options for their clients' relief. Her commitment extends beyond legal representation; for instance, she and her team notably supported a client who was struggling to stabilize his life in a NYC homeless shelter, ensuring his legal and non-legal needs were addressed comprehensively.

Sara's collaboration with nonprofit organizations such as HIAS and the ABA Commission on Immigration amplifies her impact. Through the Pro Se+ Asylum Project, she and her colleagues have supported 12 Afghan families, comprising 25 individuals, as they seek asylum in the U.S. Her proactive efforts in connecting legal service providers with new partners and resources have expanded the reach and effectiveness of these organizations, enhancing their capacity to serve more clients. Despite the challenges posed by a dynamic legal and social environment, particularly during the pandemic, she has consistently demonstrated resilience and a relentless pursuit of justice for immigrants, making her a deserving recipient of this prestigious award.

Past Recipients

  • 2023
    • Individual: Rachel Brown
    • Firm: Miller Johnson’s Project Giveback Team
    • Individual: Alfredo Silva
  • 2022
    • Firm: Fenwick & West LLP
    • Individual: Anna Dodson
  • 2021
    • Firm: Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
    • Corporate Law Department: The Startup Legal Garage
  • 2020
    • Individual: Linda Arnsbarger
    • Individual: Grace Robson
    • Firm: Dechert LLP
  • 2019
    • Individual: G. Eric Brunstad Jr.
    • Firm: DLA Piper
  • 2018
    • Corporate Law Department: Arizona Intel Legal Team
    • Firm: Duane Morris LLP
    • Corporate Law Department: Exelon Corporation
  • 2017
    • Firm: Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP
    • Individual: Lorri Anne Dunsmore
  • 2016
    • Firm: Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
    • Corporate Law Department: Turner Broadcasting System
    • Individual: Susan Mac Cormac
  • 2015
    • Firm: Seyfarth Shaw LLP
    • Individual: Robert Scott
  • 2014
    • Firm: Sidley Austin LLP
    • Firm: Goodwin Procter LLP
    • Individual: Donald Parman
  • 2013
    • Firm: Troutman Sanders LLP
    • Corporate Law Department: Verizon
    • Individual: James L. Patterson
  • 2012
    • Firm: Ropes & Gray LLP
    • Corporate Law Department: Coca-Cola Company
    • Individuals: Andrea S. Kramer and Lisa Kaderabek
  • 2011
    • Firm: DLA Piper
    • Firm: Dykema
  • 2010
    • Individual: Douglas L. Rogers
    • Firm: IBM Law Department
  • 2009
    • Individual: Heidi Y. Echols
    • Firm: Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
  • 2008
    • Individual: Alison McKinnell King
    • Firm: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
  • 2007
    • Individual: Conrad G. Bahlke
    • Firm: Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
  • 2006
    • Individual: David Punzak
    • Firm: Skadden Arps
  • 2005
    • Individual: L. Joseph Genereux
    • Firm: Cooley Godward, LLP