Seven unsung heroes in the legal profession were recognized and celebrated for their extraordinary service to our community at The Chicago Bar Association and The Chicago Bar Foundation’s 22nd annual but first virtual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Celebration on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
After 21 years as a luncheon, this year’s event moved into the evening and was forced to go virtual due to the current pandemic. CBF President Veronica Gomez of ComEd and CBA President Maryam Ahmad of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office served as live emcees for the event. Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke also made opening remarks. The recording of the event can be accessed here.
The virtual format did not take away from the inspirational speeches of the honorees. In receiving these awards and fellowships, each recipient was commended for their unwavering commitment to ensuring access to justice and inspiring others to do the same. Some brief background on this year’s honorees follows below and their more detailed bios are available at chicagobarfoundation.org/awards.
The Kimball R. Anderson and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Fellowship
After starting as a summer intern, Martin Cozzola officially began working at Chicago Volunteer Legal Services as a staff attorney in 2015 to assist people facing foreclosure, including complicated cases in Probate Court that involved deceased homeowners. In 2017, he was named project leader for CVLS’ new Veterans Pro Bono Program, part of the statewide Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN). Thus far, Martin has handled over 280 referrals from the IL-AFLAN hotline. Many of his veteran clients are elderly, disabled, and suffer from trauma. Together with an army of CVLS volunteer attorneys, Martin ensures that these veterans get the legal representation they deserve. With his passion, integrity and skill, Martin is the epitome of the kind of attorney Kimball and Karen had in mind when they created this fellowship.
In her seven years working in-house at McDonald’s Corporation, Jane Mansell has been a regular volunteer on almost all the legal department’s pro bono projects. As McDonald’s Project Lead in the company’s partnership with the National Immigrant Justice Center, she has helped organize naturalization clinics and asylum clinics, while working tirelessly to increase the impact of the pro bono program by bringing on new volunteers. Beyond Jane’s work with NIJC, she regularly volunteers with a helpline that provides support to parents of special needs students, in a neighborhood clinic located in Woodlawn, at the Domestic Violence Courthouse, with Prairie State Legal Services, and with students through The Chicago Bar Association’s Lawyers in the Classroom program. She has also successfully created multiple pro bono partnerships with law firms that have benefitted vulnerable people in Chicago and around the world.
Throughout her entire legal career, Marcia M. Meis has dedicated herself to service in the public sector. Beginning her career as a law clerk in the Illinois Appellate Court, Marcia found her home at the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) in 1999. During her 20-year tenure at the AOIC, has worked to make the Illinois judicial branch the best it can be and was instrumental in the Court’s decision to reconstitute the Judicial Conference as a smaller, more active, and engaged entity tasked with creating and implementing a long-term statewide Strategic Agenda for the judicial branch. Most recently, Marcia demonstrated her exemplary leadership and vision during the COVID-19 pandemic as it disrupted the judicial branch operations. Her steady leadership kept the judicial branch functioning throughout the pandemic while preparing for an uncertain future.
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 entangled in the justice system. Over the past 5 years, Ken contributed close to 1,200 hours of pro bono with an additional several hundred hours dedicated to the two Boards he sits on: UMOJA Student Development Corporation and the National Juvenile Defender Center. Ken is deeply committed to the individuals and organizations he serves and to the colleagues he has been privileged to work alongside.
In only five years of practice, Yasamin N. Kaye has made truly exceptional contributions to both the legal profession and the community. During her tenure at Perkins Coie, she contributed over 800 hours of service through a wide range of pro bono programs, and she brings her commitment to service with her to her new position at Goldberg Kohn Ltd. Even as a new lawyer, Yasamin did not shy away from stepping outside of her regular work in the area of Bankruptcy and Restructuring. She has represented survivors of domestic violence seeking to obtain orders of protection and served as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) for children in guardianship cases. Yasamin has taken an active role in pro bono recruitment efforts, helping to organize training sessions for her peers to introduce them to new pro bono opportunities.
Laurie Mikva’s entire career has been devoted to improving access to justice for society’s most vulnerable citizens, beginning with her work at the Maryland Public Defender’s Office, and continuing during her 15 years at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, where she also helped establish the Domestic Violence Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Law. As the Civil Litigation Director at the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Laurie and her students represent tenants who are facing eviction from federally subsidized housing, and she works closely with other legal aid organizations including Legal Aid Chicago and Cabrini Green Legal Aid. A leading voice at the law school for pro bono, Laurie has organized panels on the importance of pro bono, including perspectives from both legal aid organizations and law firms. She is a strong advocate for her students to include pro bono in their legal careers, no matter what career path they may take.
Long before she became an attorney, Wendy Pollack keenly understood the role the law plays in ensuring equal opportunity for all. The only woman in her class of 80, she 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. Wendy began her legal career with the organization now known as Legal Aid Chicago (then known as the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, or LAF) serving some of the city’s most vulnerable residents and working on the welfare team. In 1996, Wendy left LAF to join what is now known as the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and established the Women’s Law & Policy Initiative, which she still leads today. In this role, Wendy has fought for the rights of women and girls through relentless advocacy, litigation, and a comprehensive set of victories on the policies, rights, and services on behalf of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) brings Chicago’s legal community together to improve access to justice for people in need and make the legal system more fair and efficient for everyone. As the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association, the CBF is the largest voluntarily supported bar foundation in the country. The generous contributions of thousands of dedicated individuals, more than 200 law firms and corporations, and many other committed partners make the CBF’s work possible. Thanks to that strong support, the CBF awards more than $2 million in grants each year and plays a lead role in a number of innovative access to justice initiatives. chicagobarfoundation.org
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