June 04, 2018

ABA spotlights two individuals, three law firms for their record of pro bono efforts

CHICAGO, May 31, 2018 — The American Bar Association will present awards at its Annual Meeting Aug. 2-7 in Chicago to two individual lawyers and three law firms for demonstrating outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.

The Pro Bono Publico Awards are the top honors given by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, which over the years has spotlighted pro bono efforts of individual lawyers and small and large law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments and other institutions in the legal profession. 

Recipients of the 2018 Pro Bono Publico Awards are:

Patrick Arenz of Robins Kaplan LLC, Minneapolis:
Arenz leads his firm’s pro bono program, which has garnered national acclaim for developing an innovative approach to delivering volunteer legal services. His work has included felony trials in criminal courts, obtaining orders for protection in civil courts, seeking asylum for clients in immigration court and fighting for families in Hague Convention custody disputes in federal court. Through his leadership, commitment and passion for pro bono work, he became chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee in 2014.


Deborah Coleman of Coleman Law LLC, Cleveland: After retiring from a Cleveland-based business law firm where she handled complex commercial litigation and setting up a solo practice as an arbitrator, mediator and legal ethics lawyer, Coleman increased her pro bono legal services. In the last five years alone, she has provided more than 340 hours, representing clients who have been referred to her by the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, and participating in the Brief Advice Clinics sponsored by the Legal Aid. She was instrumental in developing Legal Aid’s innovative ACT 2 program, which engages late career and retired attorneys in providing pro bono services and currently chairs the ACT 2 advisory committee of Legal Aid.

Ballard Spahr, law firm based in Philadelphia: This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ballard Spahr's pro bono program. The firm continually meets its commitment to provide 3 percent of billable hours to pro bono work — or more than 43,000 hours this past year. Ballard Spahr attorneys represented clients on a pro bono basis through Clemency Project 2014, successfully obtaining clemency for 29 petitioners. During the past year, Ballard Spahr attorneys also handled other notable causes pro bono as well as provided counsel for countless low-income individuals in a variety of areas.

Cooley, law firm based in San Francisco
: Cooley has a long tradition of pro bono services to those of limited means, supporting the establishment of the Legal Aid Society in San Francisco nearly a century ago. Over the years, Cooley has committed 3 percent of total billable hours annually to pro bono matters. Last year, its attorneys donated nearly 53,000 hours of pro bono legal services. Cooley has provided pro bono services in immigration matters, LGBTQ advocacy and was an instrumental partner in the development of the Rural Justice Collaborative.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, law firm based in New York: With a broad portfolio in the pro bono arena, Simpson Thacher annually devotes tens of thousands of hours to pro bono projects that include advocating on behalf of low-income clients and nonprofits. Some of the efforts focus on preservation of the environment, adequate education and civil and human rights. Most recently, the firm challenged the federal government on its policies toward restricting contraceptives as well as the Executive Order that created a travel ban affecting several majority-Muslim countries.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon on Saturday, Aug. 4 from noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Crystal B Ballroom (West Tower / Lobby Level) at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. Past years recipients can be found here.

(Media: Individual pictures of the recipients are available upon request. Please email bill.choyke@americanbar.org.)


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