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Lawyers Throughout Illinois Are Making Plans to Celebrate National Pro Bono Week

The first annual National Pro Bono Celebration took place in the fall of 2009. The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has scheduled the second annual Pro Bono Week for October 24 through October 30, 2010. The ISBA Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services is asking individual lawyers, law schools, and bar associations throughout Illinois to participate in this coordinated, national effort.

Pro Bono Week is a time to encourage the volunteer efforts of our members, to expand the delivery of legal services, and to promote the good works that we do in our communities.

Who is celebrating Pro Bono Week this year, and why are they doing it?

The Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation have been celebrating pro bono week since 2005, years before the national effort. Kelly Tautges of the Chicago Bar Foundation reports that several events are planned for the 6th annual celebration, including complimentary MCLE Programs, a Pro Bono Breakfast with Judges, and a Pro Bono and Community Service Fair. Tautges explains that the goals of pro bono week in Chicago are to honor lawyers who volunteer and to educate the public and legal community about how pro bono attorneys improve the lives of the less fortunate. Event details and registration information can be found at www.chicagobar.org/probonoweek.

Jessica Bonwell, President of the Edgar County Bar Association, participated for the first time last year and is making plans for her second annual pro bono week celebration. In 2009, she and other Edgar County lawyers offered “Legal Tips and Treats” on the courthouse steps. During the event, attorneys provided free legal information and Halloween candy to the public. Bonwell says volunteering provides an opportunity for individuals to meet local attorneys and to work together to “strengthen and empower our community.”

Kate Yargus, an attorney in Marshall, is participating in pro bono week this year. Yargus is coordinating efforts of the Clark County Bar Association to participate in the annual Halloween Fall Frolic on the courthouse square. Yargus believes volunteering for the event demonstrates the bar’s commitment to local youth and gives parents a chance to meet local attorneys.

Champaign attorney Mark Palmer believes attorneys have a unique opportunity to assist others through pro bono legal assistance and volunteer work in the community. Though this will be his first year to participate in national pro bono week, Palmer recently organized a bar association volunteer night at a local food pantry. Palmer says, “The beauty of volunteering is that you always get back what you put in.”

Please consider participating in one or more events in your community to celebrate Pro Bono Week. You can find event ideas at www.celebrateprobono.org, sponsored by the ABA. Please send your Pro Bono Week event details and photos to the ISBA, to share your ideas and promote your efforts on the ISBA website.

Ramona Sullivan is an attorney with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. She is the Vice Chair of the ISBA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.