Thomas H. Morsch Public Service Award

More on the Morsch Award

Each year, the CBF awards the Thomas H. Morsch Award, the premier public recognition for long-time legal aid and public interest law attorneys in our community. The Award, which includes a cash prize generously provided by the Morsch family, was established to recognize and reward exemplary lawyers who choose public service work as a career. The cash gift celebrates the Award recipients’ accomplishments and serves to honor the financial sacrifices they have made by choosing legal aid as their life’s work.

The Award is named after Thomas H. Morsch, a former partner at Sidley Austin, and a leader in the Chicago legal community who has championed the cause of public interest law for more than 40 years. Mr. Morsch headed Sidley Austin’s commercial litigation department from 1973-1995, was a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and supervised the firm’s Committee on Pro Bono and Public Interest Law for 20 years. Mr. Morsch was the first Director of the Small Business Opportunity Center at Northwestern University School of Law, now known as The Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center. He is currently the Center’s Emeritus Director. Mr. Morsch has also served as president of The Chicago Bar Foundation and in leadership positions on the boards of numerous other charitable and legal organizations in the Chicago area.

Nominations for the 2024 Thomas H. Morsch Award are now open. Please, submit all nomination packets by Friday, May 10th. 

Morsch Award Recipients

2023 – Julie Elena Brown

Julie Elena Brown’s nearly forty-year legal career has been singularly dedicated to environmental justice, racial equity and increasing access to housing for those living in underserved communities of Chicago. After beginning her legal career at the City of Chicago law department, Julie has served in several leadership roles for Impact for Equity (formerly known as BPI) since 1989. Her career has been filled with passionate, groundbreaking work as she advocates for marginalized groups and neighborhoods across the city.

2022 – Pat Wrona

Pat Wrona is the embodiment of CARPLS’ core mission: that no one should face a legal problem alone.

In 1995, Pat joined CARPLS as a part-time attorney and later became a supervisor. Since 2007, Pat has been CARPLS’ Director of Legal Services. Pat supports a 50-person staff that delivers services in thirteen practice areas through CARPLS’ hotlines, advice desks, and statewide projects and collectively provides over 80,000 legal consultations a year. Over the past 15 years, with Pat’s quiet leadership and guidance, CARPLS has become a national leader in legal service delivery innovation.

2021 – Michelle Gilbert

Michelle Gilbert has spent over 30 years in the legal aid community working in housing law. Most recently, Michelle joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing as their Legal and Policy Director, where she has been instrumental in a variety of local efforts to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on renters. Michelle leads the Chicago Covid-19 Eviction Prevention Project, partnered in the creation of the Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt’s Early Resolution Program, and advocated for a new state law designed to increase access to Emergency Rental Assistance funds.

2020 – Wendy Pollack

Long before she became an attorney, Wendy keenly understood the role the law plays in ensuring equal opportunity for all. The only woman in her class of 80, Wendy completed a four-year apprenticeship with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America with the hope of breaking down barriers to high-wage union jobs for women. In 1979, she was a founding member of Chicago Women Carpenters (CWC). As more women trickled into different trades, CWC evolved into Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT), an advocacy group that supports the entry and retention of women in skilled trades. Ultimately, it was these experiences and her passion for advocacy that led her to pursue a public interest law career.

2019 – Lisa Parsons

Lisa Parsons has spent her 30-year legal career fighting for those who have fallen through the cracks the most—individuals struggling with homelessness, chronic mental illness, and substance abuse disorders. In a variety of roles, Lisa has bettered the lives of thousands of clients while simultaneously confronting and challenging the stigma attached to homelessness, addiction, and mental illness.


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Daniel J. Lesser


Timothy J. Hufman


Phillip J. Mohr


Denice Wolf Markham


Thomas Yates


Marta C. Bukata


Richard T. Cozzola


Benjamin S. Wolf


Margaret Stapleton


Alan A. Alop



Ann Hilton Fisher


Eugene C. Edwards


Andrew J. Cohen

Alan Mills


Susan Kaplan


Frances Corwin


Marshall J. Hartman


Margaret C. Benson


William P. Wilen


Edward I. Grossman


Laurene M. Heybach