E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award

About the Award

The E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards, administered by the ABA Standing Commit­tee on Professionalism and supported by the E. Smythe Gambrell Fund for Professionalism. This Award recognizes the nation’s exemplary, innovative, and on-going professionalism programs established by law schools, bar associations, courts and other legal organiza­tions that help ensure the maintenance of the highest principles of integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public. Each award carries a $3,500 prize. 

The Gambrell Awards were established in 1991 and are named for E. Smythe Gambrell, ABA and American Bar Foundation president from 1955 to 1956. Gambrell founded the Legal Aid Society in Atlanta, where he practiced law from 1922 until his death in 1986.

Nominations are now closed.

Nomination Guidelines

  • Nomination Form (pdf)


Law schools, state and local bar associations, court programs and projects, law firms and not-for-profit law-related organizations with professionalism programs or projects are eligible for the awards. Programs/Projects submitted for consideration must be ongoing, easily replicated, and have operated for at least one year prior to the entry deadline.

Programs should all under the broad definition of professionalism, including programs which enhance diversity, inclusion, civility, and well-being of the profession. Past Gambrell Award winning programs/projects are ineligible.

Please Note: Submitted Nominations are maintained and will be considered for two years: the award year of submission and the following award year. Programs nominated but not selected for the Award may not be submitted in consecutive years (e.g., a program/project nominated but not selected for the Award in 2020 should not submit a new application before 2022).

Program/Project Description (not to exceed three pages)

  • Please provide a one-page executive summary of your program/project, and a detailed description of the program/project, including plans for continuing operation.

Assessment of Program/Project (not to exceed three pages)

  • State the specific goals/objectives of the project or program and how it seeks to enhance the professionalism of lawyers and/or law students.
  • State how the success of the program/project is being measured/ evaluated.
  • State how the goals are being met and how they are improving the professionalism of the lawyers and/or law students.

Program/Project Continuation-To Do Kit: (not to exceed three pages)

  • Concisely state how the program/project can be duplicated and implemented by others.
  • Include suggestions or recommendations for improvement or simplification that you would offer to others who might undertake a program/project similar to yours.

Additional Information

  • Provide any additional existing documentation (such as program brochures, news media articles, reports or reportsummaries, or letters of support) demonstrating the effectiveness of the program. Links to resources are appreciated.

Judging Criteria

The purpose of the E. Smythe Gambrell Awards is to recognize effective, on-going professionalism programs and projects that help preserve, promote, and enhance within the entire legal community the highest principles of professionalism, including integrity, civility, competence, fairness, diversity, inclusion, independence, courage, respect, and dedication to the legal profession and to public service. The entries will be reviewed under the direction of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. Factors that will be considered in selecting the winning nominations will be the distinguishing and particularly meritorious features of the program, including, but limited to:

  • Overall quality of the program
  • Ease with which other interested groups throughout the country can replicate the program
  • Established history and success of the program
  • Likelihood of continuation of the program
  • Breadth of the program for all experience levels of law students and/or lawyers
  • Proactive nature of the programs
  • Effectiveness of the program

2020 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards

The ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism honored the following three outstanding professionalism programs with the 2020 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards:

The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission & The Mississippi Bar's Access to Justice Initiative. This robust state-wide access to justice initiative began as a collaborative effort among various stakeholders in Mississippi, including the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of the Court, chancellors in every judicial district of the state, the MS Bar, the MS Access to Justice Commission, the MS Volunteer Lawyers Project, and various other affinity bar associations from across the state. The Access to Justice Initiative implemented civil legal clinics in every judicial court district throughout Mississippi with the common goal of serving the public and closing the gap to the access to justice. In addition to instilling in lawyers and law students the importance of providing pro bono services and the professional benefits they receive, these legal clinics provide a resource for lawyers and law students to learn new legal specialties, get hands-on experience, and hone existing skills, as well as an opportunity to find mentors. The free legal clinic model was created specifically to be easily duplicated by others. The MS Access to Justice Commission created a Legal Clinic Toolkit with information, forms and everything else needed for other courts and bars to organize and implement a successful legal clinic.

The New York State Judicial Institute on Professionalism in the Law. This program was established to promote awareness of, and adherence to, professional values and ethical behavior by New York lawyers, promote scholarship regarding emerging professionalism and ethics issues in the practice of law, and to facilitate cooperation among practitioners, bar associations, law schools, courts, and civic organizations in addressing matters of professionalism, ethics and public understanding of the legal profession. Diverse attorneys from different practice settings, judges from the appellate and trial courts, and legal educators are appointed by the Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals to serve on the Institute.  The Institute holds several convocations around the state, inviting 100-150 people to come together for a day to discuss issues relating to lawyer professionalism. In addition, the Institute created a library of CLE programs covering various ethics and professionalism topics, and recently published a Handbook on Legal Skills and Professional Values, distributed to each newly admitted attorney in New York state.

Florida State University College of Law “Raising the Bar” Professionalism Program. This engaging and interactive program provides support to FSU law students across all three years of law school and assists in the development of professional skills and expectations of behaviors to help them in law school and throughout their legal careers. A collaborative effort with members of FSU law faculty, law students, administrative offices, including career services office, office of student advancement, research center, alumni office as well as in partnership with various bar organizations, including the Florida Bar Center for Professionalism, the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program, “Raising the Bar” is a voluntary program centered on five major pillars: 1) Personal Productivity & Resilience, 2) Civic Engagement, 3) Relationship Building, 4) Practice Area Exploration, and 5) Technology & Effective Communication. The program includes 20-25 diverse workshops designed around the mastery of skills critical for success in a variety of modern day professional settings, events, an annual professionalism-themed writing competition, a mentoring program and a “Raising the Bar” Professionalism Award, voted on by the graduating class.  

If you believe your organization's professionalism program or project merits national emulation and recognition, we invite you to apply for the 2021 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards. Nominations for the 2021 Awards will open in January 2021, and applications will be accepted between January-March. 

Questions regarding the awards should be directed to Senior Counsel, Theresa Gronkiewicz at (312) 988- 5299 or via email

Past award recipients