Jump to Navigation | Jump to Content
American Bar Association

Table of Contents
Dialogue Home
Pro Bono
Legal Aid
IOLTA
Lawyer Referral
Legal Assistance for Military Personnel
Summer 1998 - Volume 2, Number 3

Pro Bono Articles

From the Chair...
The Chair of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service discusses current issues and events

Faith in Action: A Panel Interview - Part I

Humanity and Involvement are the Hallmarks of the 1998 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award Recipients


From the Chair.
by Hon. Judith Billings
Chair, Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has been working with the National Bar Association (NBA), the bar association for African American lawyers and judges, to assist it in expanding its members' pro bono efforts. I have had the honor of attending the NBA's last two annual meetings.

For years, the Pro Bono Committee has proclaimed its commitment to working with diversity, specialty, state and local bar associations on the development and expansion of pro bono initiatives. The relationship between the ABA and the state and local bars around the country is very strong, partly because of the work of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the National Association of Bar Executives. The Pro Bono Committee has been very successful in helping to develop and providing support for pro bono programs and policies at the state and local bar level. Its connections to and relationships with diversity and specialty bar associations, however, have not been so clear or institutionalized.

After some less than successful efforts to reach out to the diversity bar community, the Pro Bono Committee stepped back and reassessed its approach. It became clear that the Committee was too disconnected from these groups to have any real chance of being seen as a useful source of information, guidance and support for their pro bono efforts. We did not understand their structure or their needs.

During the past year, the Pro Bono Committee has taken a vastly different approach to promoting pro bono within the diversity bar association community. Working from the national and local perspectives, Committee volunteers and staff have spent much time getting to know these important constituent groups. By attending diversity bar meetings, involving diversity bar leaders in the Pro Bono Committee's activities, sharing information at Committee meetings and implementing a range of other strategies, the Pro Bono Committee has taken some critically important steps forward in its outreach efforts.

In addition to the NBA's last two annual meetings, I have attended the Hispanic National Bar Association's (NHBA) annual meeting. The Committee also was represented at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association annual meeting and the Minority Council Demonstration Project (MCDP) in October. The Committee sponsored a workshop on pro bono partnerships at the MCDP spring meeting, and staff have met with Chicago Muslim Bar Association representatives. In addition, the Pro Bono Committee has sponsored a diversity bar roundtable workshop at each of the past two ABA Pro Bono Conferences and has set up a diversity bar bulletin board on its web site at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/probono/

In all of these instances, the Committee provided diversity bar association leaders with information about pro bono opportunities and the resources available through the Center for Pro Bono. We also learned about what these bar associations have been doing in the pro bono arena and shared with them thoughts about particular policy and program strategies that they might find useful in expanding their pro bono work.

This past April, I met with the NBA's Executive Committee to urge it to adopt an aspirational pro bono goal for the organization and to implement the infrastructure needed to achieve this goal. In response, the NBA recently agreed to:

  • adopt a pro bono goal for all members
  • establish a permanent standing committee on pro bono matters
  • appoint a liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

The HNBA previously embraced these same three important steps. Most importantly, the NBA recently appointed a liaison to the Pro Bono Committee who will attend our meetings regularly and serve as a critical link between the two organizations. Similarly, for the past year, a representative from the HNBA has served on the Center for Pro Bono Council.

Support of pro bono from the national diversity bar association leadership is critical. It sets the tone for the local affiliate membership and for the profession at large. Even more important is its openness with the Pro Bono Committee, sharing information about its pro bono involvement, its organizational structures, and the issues and needs confronting its members. Every time that I have interacted with diversity bar associations, I have been impressed with their energy for and commitment to pro bono and public service. The Pro Bono Committee looks forward to very productive partnerships with diversity bars.


Faith in Action: A Panel Interview - Part I

by Greg McConnell

This year's Pro Bono Conference in Asheville featured a program entitled "Faith In Action: Pro Bono Work as a Practice of Faith." During this program, an ecumenical panel of experienced pro bono and legal services attorneys led a discussion exploring the connection between faith and involvement in public interest law. The panelists were Ashley Wiltshire, Jr., Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee; Ellen Hemley, Director of Training and Development, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Kareem Irfan, Chief Information Technology Counsel, Square D Corporation; and Terry Wiley, Assistant District Attorney, Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

The audience feedback from the panel indicated a keen interest in continuing the dialogue that was initiated at the Conference and the desire to further examine the connection between faith and pro bono. In response to this message, the Center for Pro Bono interviewed the panelists to learn more about them, their thoughts on the connection between faith and pro bono or legal action, and their ideas on how that connection may be a resource for pro bono programs. The following is Part I of a summary of those interviews. Part II will appear in the Fall 1998 issue of Dialogue.

GM: Before we begin, can you give a brief overview of your religious background and pro bono or legal services involvement?

Ashley: While a seminary student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, I spent time in southwest Georgia during the summer of 1966 as part of the Student Interracial Ministry. There I lived with an African-American family. I worked in a Head Start program, and with African-American peanut farmers who did not get a fair crop allotment from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. We also were involved with Koinonia Farms, which Clarence Jordan started.

This experience was important to me in bringing together my thinking on the issues of faith, justice and the law. There were several law students who also were working in the area that same summer. They impressed me by what they were doing to improve the social condition of the residents of that area. What they were doing was concrete. They were working with an African- American lawyer named C.B. King on civil rights issues. They were effective at bringing about change and realized tangible results. Working with them and the peanut farmers forced me to read the federal regulations for the first time to understand how the federal government was determining the farmers' allotment. Here, I began to see law as a tool for social justice.

Subsequently, I went back to seminary and then overseas to teach in Thailand at a Baptist mission. There, I read the international edition of Time Magazine and was moved by the stories about lawyers at California Rural Legal Assistance and their work on behalf of migrant workers. This showed me that there may be some place where I could actually do this work and planted the idea of law school.

While in Thailand I also gained an appreciation for the value of American political system. From the viewpoint of 6th grade civics, I could see the contrast between the way law functions here versus how it functions elsewhere. I remember once speaking to a young student about how the American system was designed to include checks and balances and a disbursement of power. He was amazed to learn that our government functioned in this way because it was such a foreign concept to him. I gained an appreciation for the fact that here we have potential to right wrong. This isn't available everywhere. I wanted to be part of that system, even if it meant challenging that system.

Kareem: I am a Muslim, that is I practice the teachings of Islam. While I do not have any formal religious education, I have devoted a fair amount of time to the study of holy scripture, the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, the revealed communication from G-d and his prophet Muhammed. I am fortunate that I grew up in a family that followed fundamental religious precepts, and I have made an effort to continue that belief system.

Since the time I immigrated to the United States in 1982 from India to complete my advanced education in electrical engineering and later the law, I have made an effort to continue my religious activities and have stayed involved with various Chicago mosques and Islamic organizations. From almost the start of my U.S. residency, I have had the opportunity to assist such organizations on a variety of issues including public relations, educational programs and publications. And, as I became more involved in Islam, it became more apparent to me that community activity and involvement is fundamental to Islamic practice. You simply cannot practice religion on your own. You must participate with fellow human beings and work for the benefit of all.

When I began working in a law firm, I began to realize that I could bring a tremendous benefit to the Muslim community because of my legal background. At that time, you must realize, there were very few Muslim attorneys, in fact, at one point I knew of only one other in intellectual property law, my area of expertise. So, from my discussions and my participation in activities, I experienced the benefits that the lawyer's skills are to a group of people and to their efforts to gain a voice and to assist specific individuals. In addition to technical skills needed to resolve legal problems, the lawyer brings the advantage of being a critical, organized thinker, able to articulate ideas and beliefs.

Ellen: As someone involved in social change work from a relatively early age, legal services lawyers were role models for me - demonstrating what could be done within the system to protect individuals' rights and to advocate broadly for legal and policy changes on behalf of people on the margins of our society. Essentially, I went to law school to become a legal services lawyer and never considered any other forum for my legal work. As a law student I interned with legal services programs in Kentucky and Massachusetts and have worked in legal services continually since graduating from law school in 1981. Since 1984, I have worked at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute as Director of Training and Development. Two years ago, I started my own consulting practice and now work part-time as a consultant to non-profits, legal services programs, and other law-related organizations across the country.

In my religious life, I am an active member of a Jewish Reconstructionist synagogue. Reconstructionism, one of the several denominations within the Jewish community, is characterized by an egalitarian and participatory form of religious practice.

GM: What is it about your faith tradition that draws you to legal services/pro bono work?

Ashley: I think of the words of the prophets and the story of Jesus. I think of the words of Amos that Martin Luther King quoted over and again "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) I also think of Micah's demanding inquiry: "What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy G-d?" (Micah 6:8)

An important part of the formation of my thinking on this issue was the prophetic tradition, as interpreted to me in seminary by Samuel Terrien. His teaching was a motivating factor in my getting involved in legal services.

Kareem: You must understand that Islam is a way of life--not a religion in the strict sense of the word. It is a value system that prescribes how you live every aspect of your life based on divine commandments and guidance. There is no dichotomy between the secular and the religious. All aspects flow from divine beliefs to create one seamless, whole life. The commandments of G-d in addition to the dictates and collective teachings of the prophets, including Abraham, Jesus and Muhammed, influence all aspects of daily life.

With that in mind, ethical values, teachings and commandments (and, in my case, my Islamic values) necessarily apply to your day, a big piece of which is work. Our religion teaches us that we must seek out people in need and provide them our assistance. This flows from the fact that everything we have been given is a gift from G-d and we will be held accountable for how we use it. Given our professional qualifications, then, we must use those skills to benefit the community. That is a logical step. Pro bono work is an essential element of my life. If I were a doctor or a journalist the same would be true. I would give medical pro bono or journalistic pro bono.

Ellen: One of our fundamental experiences as Jews is based on our understanding of the Exodus story in which our ancestors were enslaved and struggled to become free. I am told by a rabbi friend of mine that there are thirty-six times in Torah in which we are instructed to "not oppress a stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt." This memory of our own oppression serves as a foundation for our sense of duty and responsibility toward others who continue to be oppressed.

In coming to understand the connection between my experience as a Jew and my commitment to social change work, I have been greatly influenced by the work of Abraham Joshua Heschel who was a prominent Jewish theologian and scholar raised in the Hasidic community in Poland. As a survivor of the Holocaust, Rabbi Heschel went on to play a prominent role in the civil rights and anti-war movements in the country and was a role model for activists from all religious persuasions. As I prepared for this panel, I was very interested to read Ashley's [Wiltshire, Jr.] article in the Texas Tech Law Review Symposium where he mentions Heschel as a strong influence in his life.

Heschel's teachings have been enormously powerful for me and have given me a language for expressing many deeply held feelings and beliefs that I could not previously articulate. For example, Heschel wrote a book about the prophets which he described as a force that compelled him to leave the library and take to the streets where the prophets spoke. And what did the prophets speak about? The poor, the orphan, the stranger, about the effects of indifference and economic exploitation.

Heschel's emphasis on the connection between faith and action can be summarized by his comments after he participated in a voting rights march in Selma in 1963, when he said, "I felt my legs were praying." Prayer and activism, for Heschel, are one. Heschel also describes the essence of being religious as giving "voice to the silent agony." For me, legal services work is just that: we use our tools as lawyers and advocates to give voice to the often silent agony of our clients.

GM: What were some of the themes developed during the panel discussion that struck you as interesting/new/divergent from your previous concepts of faith in action?

Ashley: I was greatly impressed with the articulation of each panelist regarding the basis of their faith and how that translated into action. Though we came from different places and faiths, in each case it pointed toward a sense of responsibility, and responding to that which has been given to us in faith and using that to act out our faith. This idea was the constant across the board.

Kareem: Nothing really struck me as new or divergent from an intellectual viewpoint. In fact, my previously-held notions of the commonality of multiple faiths were reinforced! From an emotional viewpoint, I was greatly and pleasantly surprised by the commonality of belief among almost all persons there that you have to give back to society without expecting something in return. I was struck by the reinforcement of those ideals when I thought that the forum may have been restrictive. I knew from my comparative studies of religions that we all share many of the same fundamental values, but it was reassuring to hear that expressed and to experience the feel of that belief instead of acknowledging it from a strictly intellectual view. Everyone supported that wholeheartedly.

Before attending the conference, I could not have imagined people applauding my statements about the commonality of beliefs, that afterward people would shake my hand and hug me. But that happened. The grasping of this notion of commonality struck a resonant chord with me. Not being from this community [the legal services/pro bono community] I somewhat expected a crowd that may have been skeptical of religion and religious affiliation, or merely curious. In my subconscious, I knew that this should not be, but I was uncertain.

Ellen: One issue that came up that I had never thought about was a concern about pro bono attorneys who might impose their own religious beliefs, for example, regarding family or abortion issues, on a legal services client. The concern was that if we appeal to people through their religious affiliations we might not be able to control what they do once they are interacting with our clients.

GM: What was the response of the audience to this discussion? Why do you think that was?

Ashley: The audience was engaged in the ideas presented. I was impressed with how quickly the audience moved from a general discussion to particular issues of practice. In particular, I was struck by the audience's concern with the problems of the religious worker who evangelizes in the office. By this I mean staff members proselytizing other staff members and, also, staff members talking with clients on a faith level.

This is problematic because it can be divisive in an office situation. The audience acknowledged this and struggled with questions like where to draw the line with religious behavior? How do you articulate what a person should say on the job?

Where clients are concerned, the matter should be examined from a power aspect, and much of the scrutiny should be on who is vulnerable in that situation. We cannot take advantage of our clients or in any way impose our beliefs on them.

Kareem: I think that there is a distinct and unfulfilled need in the legal community, and the greater community at large, to refocus people on religious aspects of their lives. For too long we have focused on separating secular and religious values. I realize that some of this is Constitutionally based and cannot be undone. However, this concept doesn't work practically and only serves to hamper people in addressing some of mankind's most basic, inherent and deep- seated needs. I think that in the panel, we laid our hands on some exposed nerve, and that's what drew people out so openly.

Ellen: Proselytizing was a concern that was raised, particularly by those from southern states. We did not come to ready answers, but merely raised it as a concern.

GM: Do you have any ideas/recommendations how individuals or organizations can incorporate principles of faith into working models for their programs?

Ashley: My strong feeling is that you cannot do it explicitly. It has to be done implicitly. Because religion is so loaded and such a passionate matter, it cannot be an explicit part of what we do in legal services. That said, I do believe that we do what we do because of our religion. You just cannot say that as part of an attorney/client relationship. The practice of law must be religionless Christianity. We must practice in a religionless way.

Kareem: We can extract from all major religions to draw upon universal principles of community involvement that are acceptable to almost everybody, such as fairness, justice, family and service to others. From these we should distill key teachings and come up with a common platform of religious beliefs and values that can be applied to daily work life. This will apply particularly to pro bono as we will get more lawyers involved if we can convince them that regardless of their particular religious affiliation, they must and can step outside of their own life and assist others by signing onto pro bono work, without any conflict with personal religious beliefs or values. The idea of this framework is to break down barriers and build upon common ground.

I am trying to do this within the Muslim community. Some of the younger Muslim lawyers are focusing on succeeding in their law firms and in their careers. Of course this is to be expected and even encouraged. However, in doing so, they may become less concerned with some of the particular aspects of Muslim teaching, for example, praying five times a day. To that end I do not condemn them for what they do with their time. But, I do ask them how do we get on a common ground? What are they doing about the central facets of Islam? What are they doing to share with their community? In this way I encourage them to get involved in charitable work and pro bono. It's working, too.

Ellen: While I don't have examples from within the legal services community, I have done some work with a group called the Jewish Community Relations Council that integrates faith- based values of justice and social change with concrete work within the community. Through their program "Tikkun Ha'ir" (to repair the city), they work with synagogue social action committees in two spheres: (1) they engage in Jewish study to help synagogue members understand the roots of social action within Jewish text and tradition; and (2) they help members develop partnerships with selected urban agencies. Traditionally, synagogues and other Jewish organizations have been strong financial supporters of social service organizations but this project goes beyond merely giving money and encourages members to share their time and expertise as well. This model could be used effectively as a tool for recruiting pro bono attorneys.

Note:The ABA Center for Pro Bono is interested in learning more information about pro bono programs or projects that involve religious institutions or organizations as active partners or participants. If you know of any such efforts and would like to share that information, please contact Greg McConnell at 312/988-5775 (988-5483 fax) or mcconneg@staff.abanet.org

Greg McConnell is Staff Counsel to the ABA Center for Pro Bono


Humanity and Involvement are the Hallmarks of the 1998 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award Recipients


The recipients of the 1998 ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards are: The Legal Division of The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, Freddie Mac, McLean, Virginia.; the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, Washington, D.C.; Norlen Drossel, Berkeley, California; V. Ann Liechty, Billings, Montana; and Vance Salter, Miami, Florida.

The ABA established the Pro Bono Publico Awards in 1984 to recognize lawyers, law firms and corporate law departments for extraordinarily noteworthy contributions in extending legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service presents the Awards annually.

The 1998 Awards will be presented at a luncheon on August 3, 1998, during the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto. Judge Richard S. Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will speak at that event.

"This year's winners embody the spirit of public service that must characterize the legal profession," said ABA President Jerome J. Shestack. "The recipients have given freely of their time and talent to help improve the quality of thousands of lives--be it in their own backyards or worldwide. They have helped solve wide-ranging social ills, or touched and made better the lives of the smallest and the most defenseless among us. Our profession is proud of their accomplishments and grateful for their example."

The Legal Division of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, Freddie Mac, in McLean, Va., was nominated by Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV), which provides free legal services to the needy and sick in Northern Virginia.

Members of the Freddie Mac Legal Division participated in corporate-sponsored projects involving schools and community organizations, but they were not content to stop there. In 1991 they formed a pro bono partnership with LSNV, and "what followed was a success story," according to officials at LSNV.

Freddie Mac's legal staff performed intake, represented clients, litigated cases, staffed clinics, provided outreach, helped publish community education brochures, assisted LSNV staff with computer training and donated computers. In addition, it hosted volunteer recognition events, assisted LSNV clients in their job searches, hired unemployed clients, gave internships to minority law students, invited LSNV staff to special events, offered conferences and training facilities, assisted state-wide in the pro bono effort, networked with corporate counsel groups, and "buoyed the spirits of the LSNV staff." LSNV said that what Freddie Mac provided was far beyond simple volunteering. It got involved.

Perhaps the most poignant illustration of the commitment to enhance the human dignity of others that Freddie Mac's people displayed was the help that Freddie Mac lawyer Jim Nagel gave to a disabled LSNV client. Nagel arranged for a pro bono contractor to build a ramp so that the client "no longer would need to crawl on his hands and knees in front of his family and children to reach his upper floor condo."

"Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering is an example of what one firm can accomplish when it makes a substantial commitment of time to pro bono work," said Utah Appellate Court Judge Judith Billings, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. "This firm has championed the cause of the disadvantaged worldwide. It has made a significant, positive difference in people's lives."

Through its pro bono work, the firm has:

  • Established the Lawyers' for Children America, D.C., to address the legal needs that neglected and abused children confront. Eighteen firms now participate in the project.
  • Established the South African Legal Services and Legal Education Project in 1979 to support the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in South Africa, which was created to challenge apartheid.
  • Successfully pursued several discrimination cases and has represented plaintiffs in a number of major class action law suits against federal agencies for employment discrimination.
    In addition to past accomplishments, this year, the firm's pro bono work included:
  • Filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the American Association of Retired Persons in Phillips v. Washington Legal Foundation. The brief urged the Court to reverse the Fifth Circuit ruling that clients have a property interest in the revenues that the Texas IOLTA program generates.
  • Representing a number of disability discrimination cases and reaching a landmark settlement that requires a national fast-food chain to renovate its restaurants to make them wheelchair-accessible.
  • Representing numerous individuals in custody, landlord/tenant, Social Security and other matters.
  • Representing People for the American Way, the Pennsylvania Institute for Community Action and the Virginia League of Women Voters in federal actions in Pennsylvania and Virginia to require state implementation of the National Voter Registration Act, known as "Motor Voter Registration."

In 1996, the American Lawyer named Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering second in the nation for pro bono work. The firm never has ranked lower than fifth since the magazine established the survey in 1990. The firm also has received awards for its pro bono work from several groups, including the ABA Section of Litigation, the International Human Rights Law Group, The South African Legal Services and Legal Education Project, and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

A former social worker, Norlen Drossel of Berkeley, California, was nominated by the Volunteer Legal Services Corp. (VLSC) of Oakland, Calif., for providing at least 50 pro bono hours annually to VLSC for the past eight years. The nomination also cited Drossel's successful settlement of some of its most difficult cases, those that other VLSC lawyers had turned down.

In one matter, for example, a senior citizen died without a will. The surviving family members wanted to evict the deceased's same-sex life partner of 30 years from the home because they did not approve of the relationship. Other lawyers had refused the case because of the threat of violence. Drossel, however, mediated the case, and the frail, elderly survivor of the relationship remains in the home as the owner.

In another matter, Drossel settled the case of a terminally ill, blind amputee who had been named the beneficiary of a trust, but whose trustee, a relative, refused to make payment. The circumstances of the case involved intense family conflict, which again prompted other volunteers to decline the case. Drossel successfully handled the situation, getting the client all of the money due to her and having another trustee appointed.

Not content just to take on the difficult cases, Drossel has suggested other programs for VLSC. For example, when she noticed an increased need for legal representation of indigent breast cancer patients who needed help with drafting wills and other legal issues, she convinced VLSC to expand its program to include these cases routinely.

Drossel began her career as a social worker in the Alameda County Welfare Department and then moved to the Social Services Agency, Child Welfare, where she specialized in serving abused or molested children.

In 1997, Drossel volunteered 105.30 hours in representing VLSC clients and was awarded the Wiley E. Manuel Award for pro bono services.

Today she continues her interest in children's issues as a board member of both the Child Assault Prevention group and the Donald P. McCullum Youth Court, Inc. She also has been active in several legal and bar associations.

V. Ann Liechty, a Montana lawyer, was nominated by the Montana Pro Bono Project, with letters of support from numerous Montana lawyers, five of Montana's state court judges, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge, a client, social workers and children's advocates. They commended her for tirelessly devoting her pro bono efforts to the unmet legal needs of Montana's children. Liechty is estimated to have donated a minimum of 250 pro bono hours a year, in addition to practicing law.

"Ann never has declined to accept a case from the Pro Bono Project," said Judy Williams, project director, who said Liechty called her to volunteer her services on behalf of children 11 years ago.

"These cases are among the most difficult family law matters, involving issues like sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect and domestic violence," said Williams.

"They are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, and few volunteer lawyers are eager to assume the burdens of such matters," said Williams.

In her letter of nomination, Williams said as Liechty's reputation grew as a children's advocate, "she began receiving calls from judges and others seeking representation for children. To my knowledge, she has never declined any request for her assistance on behalf of a child."

In 1992, Liechty received the State of Montana Pro Bono Award, in part for her work as a guardian for three young boys whose father was accused of sexually abusing them. She canceled a family vacation to devote at least 500 pro bono hours to the case and its three-week trial. Astonishingly, it was not the only pro bono case that she was handling at the time.

Liechty has trained other lawyers in child representation, sharing the forms that she has developed during her work. In addition, she has donated thousands of hours to help families in adoptions.

"She always represents her clients with the skill of a lawyer and the compassion of a mother. Ann represents the best of the legal profession," wrote U.S. Circuit Court Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

Vance Salter, a Miami lawyer and civil litigator in the areas of banking and real estate finance, was nominated by two groups: the "Put Something Back" Pro Bono Project of the Dade County Bar Association for his work with Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. (LSGM), and The Florida Bar.

In making the nomination, the Dade County Bar Association noted his work with the LSGM where he has logged at least 1,245 hours of service counseling that organization, and an additional 2,110 hours helping LSGM clients. All of this is in addition to the pro bono work that he has performed for other needy clients in Miami.

Salter has been a member of the LSGM Board of Directors and its Executive Committee since 1988. In 1995, he launched LSGM's "Campaign for Justice" program, which has raised $815,000 to purchase the Miami building that LSGM has been leasing. The purchase will free funds, which will allow LSGM to hire more lawyers to represent the poor.

In nominating Salter, the "Put Something Back" project said that it was not only his dedication to helping the needy and the LSGM operation, but also his personal involvement with its clients that reflect his humanity. In one instance cited, a pro bono client, who had serious medical and cognitive problems, actually lived with the Salter family for 10 weeks during a particularly difficult period of the client's life.

In another instance, when he discovered that the Haitian woman cleaning his law offices faced deportation proceedings, Salter successfully represented her pro bono.

Salter also successfully represented 37 clients when their landlord evicted them during the housing shortage that Hurricane Andrew created. After the clients lost their belongings in the eviction, and despite the sale of the building and a bankruptcy action, Salter recovered compensation in a complicated legal battle.

Salter is known in the Miami community as someone who is "motivated by a strong sense of compassion for others who are suffering and derives great personal satisfaction from lessening other's burdens. Vance Salter is a modest man, whose charity is most often anonymous," according to his nomination.


The views expressed in Dialogue are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policies of the American Bar Association. The contents of this magazine have not been approved by the ABA House of Delegates and do not constitute ABA policy. 2001 American Bar Association
ISSN 1092-2164

Back to Top