November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving in America

By Buck Lewis

It's Thanksgiving in America. In Tallahassee, a pro bono hero, we'll call him Frank, watches the Macy's parade with his fiancée and reflects upon the devastation of Hurricane Michael. He is exhausted but gratified by the outpouring of volunteer support from Florida's lawyers. He knows Florida will be hit with hurricanes again and again, but the lessons learned will help them be ready.

It's Thanksgiving in America.  In Austin, Texas, a mother of twins, we'll call her Hannah, juggles her children's homework while reviewing last year's questions asked and answered by 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. A distinguished lawyer in Boston, we'll call her Mary, works on an amicus brief. The purpose of the brief is to help persuade an appellate court to protect unaccompanied minor children who have come to our country. She completes her final draft just before the family lunch begins. She gathers up the brief and reflects on how blessed her nieces and nephews are to be born in America as well as how blessed she is to see them this Thanksgiving Season.

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.  He is thankful that LSC has avoided, thus far, 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 hundreds of nights the last three years 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 few years. She wishes they all could be with their families this Thanksgiving Season.

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. She reflects proudly on her work helping to develop ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org. 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 worried about the drought and wildfire survivors 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 so much.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A loyal pro bono warrior and member of the ABA staff, we'll call her Cheryl, sighs as she reflects on the pace of the last year. The year has not been an easy one: budget cuts, hurricanes, and an ongoing immigration crisis. But the more she reflects, the more she realizes how much good she and her team members have accomplished in the past year.

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 was unable to finish 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 make their own problems seem small and creates a wonderful culture of mutual respect within her small firm.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A successful and hardworking bar leader, we'll call her Hilarie, drives to a friend’s home to bring her Thanksgiving brunch. As she drives through her beloved south Florida neighborhood, 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 says a prayer renewing her commitment to bring better living conditions to her fellow Americans without a real home.

It's Thanksgiving in America. A weary road warrior, we'll call him Bob, finally gets to spend a weekend in his beloved Montana. A longstanding fighter against homelessness and poverty, he gives thanks for all that is being done to provide homes to the homeless, protect the rule of law, and provide pro bono to those whose rights depend upon them.

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 expertise to our brothers and sisters. They have cemented a stunning legacy for our profession, never to be forgotten.

During this time of giving, there are many ways to give back, and pro bono is one of them. Consider signing yourself up to answer some pro bono questions in your state through https://www.abafreelegalanswers.org/ today.

Learn more about this convenient, virtual pro bono opportunity and how to get involved here: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/senior_lawyers/publications/voice_of_experience/2018/october-2018/volunteer-to-do-pro-bono-now-through-aba-free-legal-answers/

Author

Buck Lewis is a shareholder in the Baker Donelson Memphis office and chairs the Appellate Practice Litigation Group. His practice involves solving complex business, personal injury, insurance coverage, Consumer Protection Act, health care and class action litigation problems for his clients. He is a Supreme Court Rule 31 listed General Civil Mediator. In 2013, the American Arbitration Association added Mr. Lewis to its panel of arbitrators. He is the current Chair of the ABA Pro Bono and Public Service Committee.