Reprinted with permission from Voice of Experience, February 2017 (2:2). Copyright © 2017 American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
In the early 1990s, Sandy D'Alemberte, then the President of the ABA, called and asked me to chair a special committee to be called the ABA Pro Bono Development Committee on Immigration. Sandy had procured a multimillion dollar grant from the Ford Foundation to encourage lawyers who were not involved in the practice of immigration law to take on pro bono cases in that field. Despite an initial reluctance on my part to undertake the assignment, his charm and perseverance persuaded me. It changed my life! Learning about the plight of immigrants, refugees and newcomers in our country was an eye-opening experience. As a result of the Association's efforts over the next decade, mainline lawyers who had never been involved in the practice of immigration law began to get firsthand experience and to observe this arena. Through the assistance of Ford funding and further dollars from the Open Society Institute, state and local bar associations began to develop pro bono representation programs throughout our nation. Our challenge then continues today. We need your help!