The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (for Pro Bono)

It seems like every day and week is some quirky celebration these days. The first full week of March is National Procrastination Week. National Waffle Week falls from September 2nd-8th this year. September 19th is the fan-favorite International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Here at the CBF, our favorite, for the 14th year running, is Pro Bono Week, the last full week in October.

Panelists and speakers from the 2006 Pro Bono Week events

Pro Bono Week started right here in Chicago, fourteen years ago, thanks to the vision of then CBA President (and now Justice) Michael B. Hyman and others who wanted to honor lawyers’ pro bono efforts and educate the public and the legal community about how lawyers can and do improve the lives of the less fortunate. For fourteen years since, the CBA and CBF have hosted Pro Bono Week to celebrate the pro bono work done year-round and encourage attorneys and other legal professionals to do even more in the year to come.

Each Pro Bono Week has had a theme, ranging from the first year’s Hope and Justice in Action to this year’s Celebrating the Power of Pro Bono. Chaired by leaders in legal aid and the private bar, each Pro Bono Week has included unique CLE programming as well as fun social events like film screenings, trivia competitions, and, for the last three years, a justice-themed story slam.

The success of Pro Bono Week here in Chicago helped inspire the American Bar Association to turn it into a national pro bono celebration.This year’s programming will include CLE programs on voting rights, the impact of evictions on families and communities, and the popular Breakfast with Judges, which brings together attorneys and judges to discuss pro bono and access to justice from the judicial perspective.

The 2005 Pro Bono and Community Service Fair

Pro Bono Week’s largest event actually pre-dates the Week itself: The Pro Bono & Community Service Fair. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Fair is a collaboration between the Chicago Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section, the CBF, and the law firms of Jenner & Block LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, which again will be hosting this year’s Fair. The Fair brings together representatives from dozens of of Chicago’s pro bono and legal aid organizations and other community service programs in a casual social setting where potential volunteers can find an opportunity that fits their schedule, interests and goals while networking with like-minded colleagues.

Each year, Pro Bono Week reaches hundreds of attorneys who commit, or recommit, to serving their community in the year that follows. As we reflect on how far we’ve come in fourteen years, we also look forward to many more. So this year, from October 22nd-26th, celebrate both Pro Bono Week and Get Organized Week by getting organized for pro bono!