Law firms and corporations play an integral role in the CBF and the larger cause of equal access to justice in many ways. Before 2008, however, our community lacked the means to recognize those firms and companies who embody best practices in their leadership and comprehensive support for the cause.
Then, as now, firms and companies were fittingly recognized for noteworthy pro bono work at both the local and national level. Similarly, firms and companies continue to be recognized for their financial support for pro bono and legal aid. And finally, firms and companies are occasionally recognized on an ad hoc basis for significant in-kind support (e.g., hosting events) or noteworthy advocacy successes.
The CBF saw the need for a central place to identify best practices for firms and companies in this cause and to recognize those leading by example. After a lot of market research and discussion among key stakeholders, the CBF Leadership Circles were born in early 2008.
The CBF Leadership Circles, and their accompanying statements of principles, underscore the critical role that Chicago area law firms and companies play in ensuring equal access to justice in our community. Each of the three CBF Leadership Circles Law Firm, Corporate and Partner represent a commitment to a series of best practices for law firms and companies in the Chicago area to support pro bono, legal aid and related access to justice initiatives. Dozens of firms and companies have signed on to the CBF Leadership Circles, pledging to contribute their time, money and in-kind resources as well as to strategically use their influence in the community to advance this cause.
In addition to recognizing and providing support to Leadership Circle firms and companies, the CBF periodically gathers the three groups together to discuss common issues facing firms and companies and larger collective challenges that impact everyone.
Those issues over the years have included responding to the aftermath of the economic downturn in 2009 and 2010 and, more recently, challenges to federal funding for legal aid that merited a strong response from our legal community.
Next on the agenda for the Leadership Circles will be a 2019 gathering to discuss the evolving relationship between corporations and their outside law firms and business partners, and how we can ensure leadership on access to justice issues remains a central part of that relationship.