To wrap up his term as CBF President, Tom Morsch had an inspiring vision. A leader in Chicago’s legal community and a pro bono pioneer, Tom always felt that lawyers in private practice received a disproportionate amount of recognition for their pro bono contributions in comparison to the lawyers who have dedicated their careers to public interest law at often great financial sacrifice. Motivated to create meaningful public recognition for these unsung heroes, he and his family worked with the CBF to establish the CBF Thomas H. Morsch Public Service Award.
First awarded in 1998, the Morsch Award honors legal aid attorneys who have dedicated their careers to serving the poor and the disadvantaged. These attorneys have shown lifelong excellence in the quality of their work and exemplary leadership within their organizations. To honor the extraordinary commitment of these attorneys, Tom’s family endowed the award so that it includes a $10,000 honorarium for the recipient. The cash gift celebrates the recipients’ accomplishments and serves to honor the financial sacrifices they have made by choosing legal aid as their life’s work. Tom insists that the gift be used towards the trip that was never taken or the dream put on hold due to their years of selfless dedication. Many past recipients have used the gift to take trips with their families across the globe, including Paris and New Zealand. Another used the money to purchase a car for his teenager.
The CBF has presented the Morsch Award to more than 20 exemplary attorneys at our annual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon. This inspiring award has become the preeminent recognition for veteran legal aid and public service attorneys in the Chicago area, an unofficial Legal Aid Hall of Fame.