Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award

More on the Lewis Award

The Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award honors attorneys who, like the late Edward J. Lewis II, display a deep commitment to the fundamental principles of equal protection and equal justice in the community through outstanding pro bono service.

Prior to his death at age 37, Lewis provided more than two thousand hours of pro bono legal services to various organizations. While maintaining a busy practice as a partner at Jenner & Block, Lewis devoted his “spare” time to a number of noble pro bono causes, including; law related youth education programs; long term care of the elderly; persecuted children and adults seeking political asylum; minorities facing housing discrimination; and inmates challenging conditions in Illinois prisons. In addition to devoting his own time, Lewis was instrumental in recruiting other attorneys to do pro bono work. During his time at Jenner & Block, he inspired over 100 fellow attorneys and staff members to join the cause. All the while, he was a devoted husband and father whose spirit lives on today through this prestigious Award.

The selection committee will choose the recipient based upon the nominee’s work on significant pro bono cases or matters that helped residents of the Chicago area impacted by poverty, abuse and discrimination; the length and breadth of pro bono commitment and experience; success in involving and inspiring other attorneys to do pro bono work; and other significant accomplishments that have improved access to justice for residents of the Chicago area impacted by poverty, abuse and discrimination.

This Award has been generously endowed by the law firm of Jenner & Block, Nancy Loeb, and Jeff, Matt and Vanessa Colman, and allows the recipient to designate a special Chicago Bar Foundation grant to the CBF-supported pro bono or legal aid program of his or her choice. 

Our Past Lewis Award Recipients

2022 – Shelisa M. Thomas

While Shelisa is still early in her legal career, her inspiring commitment to pro bono and access to justice has been on display from the time she started law school at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, where she would go on to graduate Cum laude in 2019.  Now an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP she already has committed over 1,800 hours to pro bono work since joining the firm spanning a broad range of areas including immigration, veteran’s rights, and wrongful convictions.

2021 – Andrew W. Vail

Andrew Vail has made pro bono service a central part of his work throughout his career. After graduating from the University of Illinois College of Law with honors in 2003, Andrew began working at Jenner & Block, a firm long recognized for its commitment to pro bono. During his time at the firm, he has opened nearly 90 pro bono matters, totaling over 6,500 hours during his career, and averaging nearly 400 pro bono hours per year. Andrew does not shy away from challenging pro bono cases. Working closely with Northwestern Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC), he has contributed thousands of hours to help exonerate the wrongfully accused and wrongfully convicted.

2020 – Ken Schmetterer

A partner in DLA Piper’s Litigation group since 2001, Ken Schmetterer has focused his pro bono service on the challenging and often overlooked area of juvenile justice. Through his pro bono advocacy, he has worked for systemic reform to improve outcomes for children released from Chicago’s temporary juvenile detention center seeking a return to school, examined the impact of bail on juveniles and their families, and encouraged courts to consider the unique vulnerabilities children face in legal challenges to the sentencing of children to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the waiver of Miranda rights of students, and the automatic transfer of children from juvenile court to adult court.

2019 – Steven F. Pflaum

“He just makes everything better.” That’s how one person described the impact of Steve Pflaum’s pro bono service over the last three decades. As a partner at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, Steve co-chairs the firm’s Litigation Department and chairs its Pro Bono Committee. He has also chaired the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee, the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility, and most recently, the Illinois Statutory Court Fees Task Force. Between his pro bono service and his committee activities, Steve has volunteered over 3600 hours over the past nine years alone.

2018 – Linda T. Coberly

Throughout her career at Winston & Strawn LLP, Linda Coberly has been a powerful force for change in pro bono and public service. Since she joined the firm in 2004, she has completed more than 2,000 hours of pro bono service and worked on more than 90 pro bono cases. She shapes immigration policy, advocates for the equal rights of women, and defends the rights of the accused and imprisoned—all while serving as the Managing Partner of the Chicago office.


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