Stand Up for Justice

By Bob Glaves  |  CBF Executive Director

As we got ready to honor eight truly outstanding lawyers at this year’s CBA and CBF’s Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon, I found some inspiration for my closing remarks while watching Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, where they once again took a break in the middle of the game for Stand up to Cancer.

If you have not seen this tribute before, I encourage you to check out this short clip. At that break in the game, everyone in the ballpark players, coaches, umpires, fans, the announcers, and others working in the ballpark stood up and held up a card (and sometimes multiple cards) declaring that they are standing up to cancer on behalf of a friend or loved one.

It’s a really powerful and emotional moment. Everyone in the ballpark is standing and holding up a card, as virtually everyone there has personally seen the impact of cancer on a family member or friend, and is committing to do their part to fight it.

Had I been there, I could have held up cards for family, friends and colleagues who have fought and often succumbed to cancer. For that reason, fighting cancer continues to be one of my biggest charitable priorities.

My guess is you too have been personally touched in some way by cancer. And I’d make a bet that if we had repeated that all-star game moment at our Luncheon, all 700 people there could have stood up on behalf of one or more people close to them who have been impacted by cancer.

What got me thinking about it in connection with this year’s Luncheon was wondering for a moment what would have happened had they stopped the game but instead suggested that everyone there grab a card to stand up for justice.

Unlike for cancer, my guess is that almost everyone there would have been looking at each other wondering what to write on their card, and most would have had no idea what they could do to make a difference in that effort even if they wanted to do so.

That’s not because people don’t believe the justice system should be fair and accessible for everyone. Americans everywhere grow up pledging allegiance to the ideal of liberty and justice for all. And polls consistently show that people when asked overwhelmingly favor the principle that the justice system should be fair and accessible for everyone.

What’s different in this context is that most people have not had personal experience with this lofty principle of justice for all in their own lives or seen firsthand what happens when we don’t live up to that promise. As a result, while we can expect their support in the broader sense, we can’t expect the general public to take an active leadership role in advancing this cause.

And that is what makes it absolutely essential for all of us who are connected to the legal community and the justice system to take on that leadership responsibility. We have the firsthand knowledge and experience to understand the critical importance of equal access to justice and what needs to happen to get us there.

Our leadership in this cause has never been more important. While we’ve collectively made tremendous progress improving access to justice since the early 1990’s, we’re still a long way from fulfilling the promise of justice for all, as a recent study by the Legal Services Corporation confirms.

So in addition to standing up to cancer and standing up for the other causes we believe in, all of us in the legal community need to make it a personal priority to stand up for justice. While we of course can’t match the numbers of people who will take action on those more broadly understood issues, our legal community in the Chicago area alone can fill several stadiums and we are uniquely positioned to make a powerful impact.

As our 2017 honorees proved once again, wherever we are in the legal community we can make a big impact in this cause. And when we stand up together as a legal community through the CBF, we’re an exponentially more powerful force.

No matter where you are in your personal journey of leadership in this cause, I hope you will join me by getting involved or continuing your leadership in the following ways:

If you haven’t already signed the CBF’s Justice Pledge, taking the pledge is a concrete way you can show you are standing up for justice, and we’ll then keep in touch with you with monthly suggestions for how you can use your time, money and influence to make a difference.

Thank you for standing up for justice. While they may not be consciously thinking about it in the same way as with cancer and other causes, our community and our country needs you.