Our Legal Community’s Time to Lead

The last several weeks have felt like we are living in an alternate reality. And while we all are dealing with some level of upheaval in our firms, our families, and our companies, we are actually the lucky ones. When compared to those in our community — many of whom live at or below the poverty line or who were barely holding things together even before this coronavirus hit — we are fortunate indeed.

And that is why we are reaching out to you now with a plea for help. The Chicago Bar Foundation Investing in Justice Campaign is more important today than ever before, and it is why we, as the current and past campaign chairs, have come together to ask you to help us deliver a powerful message to your colleagues in your firms and companies that this is our time to lead.

The list of those in need is almost infinitely long. It includes the hourly worker in the restaurant who suddenly has lost their livelihood, the domestic violence victim who now faces even greater barriers to getting an order of protection, the retail associate downtown or at the airport who has been laid off because business is grinding to a halt, and the small business owner who is now staring at a complete business collapse. And the list goes on and on.

[note note_color=”#f2f2f2″ text_color=”#000000″ radius=”1″]This letter appeared in The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on March 31, 2020.[/note]

While these people will face immediate issues that hopefully can be mitigated in part by the government response, they will quickly be at a higher risk for eviction or foreclosure, consumer scams that prey on their financial uncertainty, missed child support payments, bankruptcy, and a host of other issues where they are going to need legal help.

That’s where the Investing in Justice Campaign comes in and why it is so critical that we step up right now. Because if we don’t take the lead to support our colleagues in the pro bono and legal aid organizations, who will?

The last time we faced a crisis of this magnitude was at the depth of the financial crisis in 2009. We reached out to you then for support, and the Chicago legal community responded magnificently. We came together as a legal community, and we actually significantly increased the number of individual contributions made to the campaign. In addition to the direct impact those contributions made in enabling many more people to get legal help at a time of heightened need, this exemplary response from our legal community was an emotional boost for our pro bono and legal aid colleagues to know we stood by them, not just in the good years but especially so in the bad ones.

Those positive results did not just happen. It took leadership and commitment. It took people like you, leaders in your firms and companies, to set the example that will inspire others to follow. And we are confident we can do it again this year.

We are immensely proud to have led the campaign and watched it grow into the largest of its kind anywhere in America. It has never been more important than now that we do our parts to see that it continues to grow in this time when more people than ever will need the legal help that the Investing in Justice Campaign provides.

Thank you in advance for the leadership and generous support we know you will show.

Investing in Justice Campaign Chairs

2007 Anton R. Valukas, Jenner & Block LLP
2008 Dan K. Webb, Winston & Strawn LLP
2009 Jeffrey E. Stone, McDermott Will & Emery
2010 Charles W. Douglas, Sidley Austin LLP
2011 William A. Von Hoene, Jr., Exelon Corporation
2012 Emily Nicklin, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
2013 Daniel E. Reidy, Jones Day
2014 Patrick Fitzgerald, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
2015 Brett J. Hart, United Airlines, Inc.
2016 Susan C. Levy, Northern Trust
2017 Jesse H. Ruiz, CBA President
2018 Rebecca Eisner, Mayer Brown LLP
2019 Linda T. Coberly, Winston & Strawn LLP
2020 Sean M. Berkowitz, Latham & Watkins LLP