The ABA Medal, the American Bar Association’s highest honor, will be awarded to William H. Neukom, an international champion for justice who has devoted his life and career to public service, access to justice and advancing the rule of law.
Neukom will receive the ABA Medal during the General Assembly on July 29 during the ABA Virtual Annual Meeting. The ABA Medal recognizes exceptionally distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to a cause of American jurisprudence.
A former president of the ABA, Neukom is the founder and chief executive officer of the World Justice Project (WJP), an organization devoted to promoting the rule of law throughout the world. He was the lead lawyer for Microsoft Corporation for nearly 25 years, managing its legal, government affairs and philanthropic activities. A retired partner in the Seattle office of the international law firm K&L Gates, he is a lecturer at Stanford Law School, where he teaches a seminar on the rule of law.
“Bill Neukom’s service to the legal profession and the public tell only part of his journey as a lawyer-statesperson,” ABA President Judy Perry Martinez said. “As founder of the World Justice Project, Bill has transformed how society thinks about, measures and reports on the rule of law throughout the world. Yet some of his most valuable contributions came early in his career when he changed the lives of individuals he came to know through his work as their lawyer, when they needed him most.”
Through Neukom’s leadership, the WJP has become the preeminent global organization for measuring the rule of law through original research and data. It promotes justice, opportunity and peace wherever people are denied basic human rights to safety, freedom and justice because the rule of law in their land is weak or nonexistent.
“I am indebted to the American Bar Association for decades of opportunities to improve my skills as a lawyer and to be a part of its mission to defend liberty and deliver justice to a broad cross-section of the public," Neukom said.
In addition to leading a major corporation’s complex legal strategy, Neukom used his leadership role to support local access to justice efforts, particularly as local lawyers mobilized to support state and federal funding for civil legal services.
Neukom has a distinguished record of service to the ABA. While president in 2007-08, he established the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), organized an ABA members’ march in solidarity with embattled judges and lawyers in Pakistan, and launched the World Justice Project. He has also chaired the ABA Young Lawyers Division, served as secretary of the association and as Washington State Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. He currently serves as a special adviser to the ABA Center on Innovation.
Neukom earned his A.B. from Dartmouth College and his LL.B. from Stanford University, and has received honorary degrees from Dartmouth College, Gonzaga University, the University of Puget Sound and the University of South Carolina.