An Extraordinary Pro Bono Week

Like most gatherings in these times, last week the CBA/CBF’s 16th Annual Pro Bono Week went virtual for the first time. That didn’t stop hundreds of lawyers and other legal professionals in Chicago from participating in one of the many fan favorite events to celebrate the inspiring pro bono work in our community and to learn more about new opportunities to make an impact in the year ahead.

This year’s theme was “Extraordinary Times Call for Extraordinary Commitment,” and we all learned throughout the week about the extraordinary commitment that many of you are already making to heed the call to action in this moment of increased need and awareness.

We kicked off the week with the perennial justice-themed story slam, once again emceed by Ben Weinberg from Dentons US LLP and Angela Vigil from Baker McKenzie LLP. Brave storytellers from our legal aid and pro bono community made us laugh, made us cry, and inspired us to follow their impressive examples in the coming year.

Story Slam guests react to one of the powerful stories shared on Monday night.

On Tuesday, we heard from experts at Heartland Alliance, alongside legal aid organization representatives, on “Never Fully Free: Addressing the Harm of Permanent Punishments.” Panelists described how pro bono attorneys can work with their organizations to help people with records gain crucial access to the employment, housing, and education they need to re-build their lives.

Throughout the week, attendees grabbed their popcorn and favorite movie theater candy to watch the documentary film John Lewis: Good Trouble. On Wednesday, we then gathered to discuss Congressman John Lewis’ legacy with a panel of voting rights experts and learned about nonpartisan opportunities to protect one of our country’s most fundamental rights.

On Thursday, we closed out with a bang, with the 27th Annual Pro Bono & Community Service Fair, presented by the CBF and the CBA Young Lawyers Section and generously sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis LLP. This year’s Fair was a little different, hosted on a virtual networking platform called Remo, but we were thrilled to connect over 100 attendees to more than 40 pro bono, community service, and mentoring opportunities. We were fortunate to also hear from our featured speaker, legal aid alum and first ever City of Chicago Chief Equity Officer, Candace Moore, about the importance of the legal aid and pro bono community as key partners in the work to achieve equity.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of the 16th Annual Pro Bono Week. Chicago was home to the nation’s first pro bono week, which sparked a national celebration, and we are thrilled that even in these times we were able to keep that tradition alive.

We are proud of this legal community that continues to set a great example for our colleagues throughout the county, and we hope this year’s Pro Bono Week inspired you to continue to make pro bono work an integral part of your practice.

Whether you were able to participate in one of these Pro Bono Week events or not, there are countless ways to get involved and make a difference, and the CBF is here to help year-round through our online Pro Bono Opportunities Guide and CBF Pro Bono Support Program.