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November 17, 2017 Dialogue

Pro Bono: From the Chair

By George T. (Buck) Lewis, Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

It's Thanksgiving in America. In Austin, Texas, a mother of twins, we'll call her Hannah, juggles kindergarten homework while reviewing the questions and answers asked on ABA Free Legal Answers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. She is thankful that the Texas Supreme Court allowed licensed lawyers from all over the country to perform pro bono work in Texas and marvels at the outpouring of support from lawyers throughout the United States. As she finishes her status report to the state bar, she is grateful that Austin and her family in Houston were spared. She wonders how the thousands of clients who received pro bono advice in Texas have fared since then.

It's Thanksgiving in America. In Tallahassee, a pro bono hero, we'll call him Frank, watches the Macy's parade with his fiancé and reflects upon how difficult the past couple of months have been. Like Hannah in Texas, he is exhausted but gratified by the outpouring of support from Florida's lawyers. He knows Florida will be hit again, but the lessons learned will help them be ready.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A distinguished lawyer in Boston, we'll call her Mary, works on one last project before the family lunch, an amicus brief, the purpose of which is to help to persuade an appellate court to protect unaccompanied minor children who have come to our country. She completes her final draft. She gathers up the brief, reflecting on her nieces and nephew and how blessed they are to be born in America and how blessed she is to see them this Thanksgiving.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A strong Legal Services Corporation (LSC) leader, we'll call him Jim, enjoys an early college football game on television with his family. This Thanksgiving morning is one of the few mornings that are restful for Jim these days. He is thankful that so far LSC has avoided existential cuts in funding, but he reminds himself that he can never, never, never let up.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A managing partner, we'll call her Linda, is at her Atlanta office late into the evening working on programs to train her young lawyers and to boost morale with her staff. She has spent five hundred of her last seven hundred nights in hotels around the world. She is thankful to be back home with her devoted husband, but she is also grateful that her soul has been enriched by the thousands of military service personnel and veterans she has met and helped over the past two years. She wishes they all could be with their families this Thanksgiving.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A pro bono volunteer from Nashville, we'll call her Samantha, has the luxury of going to a movie with her dear husband. It hasn't been an easy year juggling her responsibilities to the development of the new national pro bono website and her day-to-day work at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, but she knows how important it is to persevere. She is also encouraged by a recent decision from the U.S. District Court in Nashville making it more difficult for states to deny drivers licenses to the poor just because they can't pay fines and fees.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A pro bono champion in California, we'll call her Julia, helps with preparations for a neighborhood lunch. She is still heartsick about the devastation the wildfires have caused in her state. But she knows that California's lawyers will rise to the occasion just as they always have before, to help those who have lost their homes, or worse.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A loyal pro bono warrior and member of the ABA staff, we'll call him Steve, smiles as he watches his new grandchild play in his backyard. Although he's seen it most of his entire adult life, he marvels at the beauty of the fall foliage in New Hampshire. The year has not been an easy one—budget cuts, hurricanes, and a threat to legal services funding. But the more he reflects, the more he realizes how much good he and his team members have accomplished in the past year, and how blessed he is to enjoy fall in the Granite State.

It's Thanksgiving in America. The manager of a small firm in Pittsburgh, we'll call her Debbie, is in her office this Thanksgiving morning taking care of pro bono work that she could not get done earlier in the week because she was in hearings. She marvels at the amount of pro bono time put in by her lawyers and her staff, especially working on cases to ensure that Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries have access to the care they need. It's tough to juggle all her responsibilities, but she knows that the pro bono work that she and her employees do makes their own problems seem small and creates a wonderful culture of mutual respect within her small law firm.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A successful and hardworking bar leader, we'll call her Hilarie, drives to the home of a friend to bring her Thanksgiving brunch. As she drives through her beloved south Florida neighborhoods, she is mindful that there are homeless Americans from Miami to Juneau and from Honolulu to Maine who survive day to day on the streets and in homeless shelters. She is grateful for the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon her and her family and quietly prays a prayer renewing her commitment to bring better living conditions to her fellow Americans without a real home.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A lucky husband, we'll call him Buck, delights in the Christmas songs of his wife and nieces. He gives thanks for the countless unselfish acts of lawyers across America who have given of their time and their expertise to our brothers and sisters. They have cemented a stunning legacy for our profession, never to be forgotten.