chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
June 05, 2018

Wisconsin lawyer Michael J. Gonring to receive ABA 2018 Pickering Award

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2018 — Michael J. Gonring, director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and formerly a partner at Quarles & Brady LLP, is the 2018 recipient of the John H. Pickering Award of Achievement, presented by the American Bar Association Senior Lawyers Division. Gonring will be recognized at the Senior Lawyers Division annual Pickering Award dinner at the Union League Club of Chicago at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2, during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The award honors the life and accomplishments of John H. Pickering, co-founder of the Washington, D.C. law firm then known as Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale), who was involved in a variety of pro bono activities and law-related societal issues affecting the elderly. It recognizes lawyers or judges who demonstrate outstanding legal ability; and have compiled a distinguished record of service to the profession and their communities, resulting in significant contributions to improving access to justice for all.

"Mike Gonring, through his pro bono and legal services activities, exemplifies John Pickering’s commitment to equal justice for all,” said Brooksley Born, chair, 2018 Pickering Selection Committee.

Gonring spent 28 years as a litigation partner and six as an associate with Quarles & Brady LLP. He has held varied legal roles and served as the National Pro Bono coordinator and the assistant practice group leader. Gonring has mentored and inspired attorneys to respond to the needs of the community and commit to consistent pro bono activities.  

Recently, Gonring recruited lawyers to assist Milwaukee’s immigrant community to respond to the increased immigration enforcement efforts and deportations.

As pro bono coordinator, he led various programs involving legal representation to victims of domestic violence, death row inmates who appealed convictions and asylum seekers. Quarles & Brady LLP, created an award in his honor, the Michael Gonring Pro Bono Award (The Gonring Award) for his “longstanding pro bono leadership and commitment to justice for the poor.” Following his retirement, Gonring continued to represent victims in domestic abuse court and volunteered at legal clinics. He started a legal clinic for undocumented individuals at the Mexican Consulate in Milwaukee.  He was appointed director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee last year.

Considered an inspiration by many Wisconsin lawyers, Gonring, 70, is dedicated to helping those who are poor and disadvantaged. He has built pathways for lawyers and law students to serve the legal needs of the most vulnerable in society, which includes the creation of a Mobile Legal Clinic project, which offers several legal clinics a month and is staffed by various firms and volunteer lawyers.

A former Milwaukee Journal sportswriter and Marquette University sports information director, Gonring is a graduate of Marquette University Law School. He received his JD in 1982. He received his BA, cum laude, from Marquette University College of Journalism in 1969.

Click here for a picture of Michael Gonring.

ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to legal questions and issues. Go to and follow us on Twitter @ABAFactCheck.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.