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2023 ABA Pro Bono Award Winners Honored for Work Tackling Hate Crimes, Legal Access  

Four lawyers and a law firm from Seattle were awarded for their outstanding dedication to providing pro bono legal services to those facing prohibitive economic and social hardships.

As such, the American Bar Association (ABA) honored the recipients with the Pro Bono Publico Award given each year since 1984 to entities and individuals that demonstrate exceptionally noteworthy volunteer service to disadvantaged and low-income persons.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Charles Phillips from Virginia
  • Karen King from New York
  • David Cross from Washington D.C.
  • Ned Pillersdorf from Kentucky

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP was also recognized for its great work partnering with other law firms to deliver the free legal services. The award winners will also be honored at the trade association’s 2023 ABA Annual Meeting in August.

From Twitter 

USPTO @uspto ·Jun 9

"This week we heard from inventors, patent lawyers, & patent agents who shared ideas to help underresourced inventors under our Patent Pro Bono program, & encourage more participation in our innovation economy through free legal services. More on our work:"

PLP 2023.06.19Phillips, who retired in 2018, continued his work by providing pro bono services through the Roanoke office of Blue Ridge Legal Services. Per the ABA, Phillips’ colleagues say he “flung open the doors of the courthouse for his over 1,500 low-income clients.”

King, notably, was recognized for her work with the Asian American Bar Association of New York combatting hate crimes and violence surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, Cross was recognized for his outstanding contributions protecting civil rights.

“[Cross] dedicates significant time to his mission of bringing much-needed attention to the struggles and social stigma associated with individuals with disabilities in the high-pressure world of the legal profession,” added the ABA announcement of the winners.

Pillersdorf was singled out for helping represent victims of a disability fraud scheme leading to more than 250 cases and 2,000 hearings while the Seattle-based firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP was lauded for its innovative work “reimagining pro bono partnerships.”

“The firm has helped over 120 in-house legal departments either engage in pro bono work or launch their own in-house pro bono programs, and it also developed a first-of-its-kind digital platform to assist,” reads the announcement.

From Twitter

Jax Area Legal Aid @JaxLegalAid ·Jun 12

"DID YOU KNOW? If you accept a case pro bono but discover that funds are recoverable from a third party, you can recover funds. You just can’t charge your client directly on a pro bono case. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get involved in pro bono. #ProBono #BeInTheKnow"

Pro bono work has seen notable increases in recent months, and according to The 2022 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, more than 107,000 lawyers over 124 jurisdictions provided more than 3.6 million pro bono hours last year.

“Given the challenges of [the] last few years, the legal profession has displayed laudable determination to continue offering pro bono services. More than half of lawyers engaged in pro bono with 40% of them dedicating ten or more hours of their time to pro bono work,” reads information from Thomson Reuters Foundation research.

Per the data, close to 60% of respondents indicated their pro bono legal work is focused on “access to justice,” with other work focused on immigration, asylum and refugees and human rights also commanding a significant portion of pro bono labor hours.

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