For its outstanding commitment to pro bono work, Baker & McKenzie will today receive the 2003 Pro Bono Initiative Award from the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) at its 19th Annual Award Luncheon. Baker & McKenzie will be recognized for its dedication to providing direct legal services to the disadvantaged and underserved and for its success in creating a pro bono partnership program that brings together client corporate legal departments and non-profit organizations to serve legal needs in communities across the North American region.
Baker & McKenzie’s client partnership program, Partners to Serve, assists and advises corporate legal departments in the development of in-house pro bono initiatives and partners with these corporate clients to provide legal services to indigent members of the community. For example, in Saturday morning clinics throughout the year, the Firm partners with clients including Abbott Laboratories to assist pro bono clients of the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC) with applications for naturalization. After Baker & McKenzie immigration attorneys provide training to in-house volunteers, teams of attorneys from Baker & McKenzie and the corporation interview and counsel clients about how to obtain citizenships, draft applications, and represent the pro bono clients in interviews before the government agency that authorizes U.S. citizenship.
Earlier this year Baker & McKenzie hired its first full-time Director of Pro Bono and Public Service for North America, Angela C. Vigil, to further develop the Firm’s pro bono practice. Vigil coordinates opportunities for attorneys and staff in each of the 11 offices
throughout the United States and Canada and helps the Firm advocate in cases on behalf of individuals, entities and in policy reform efforts to improve access to justice for the disadvantaged and underserved. Vigil also works to advance the Partners to Serve project and to coordinate the Firm’s charitable giving, community service, and fellowships.
“Baker & McKenzie has been extremely innovative and influential in advancing pro bono contributions in the Chicago area and across the nation by assisting their clients in the set up of in-house pro bono programs,” said Susan Shulman, Pro Bono Initiative
Director for PILI. “Hiring public interest attorney Angela Vigil to devote full-time attention to this program and other community projects demonstrates Baker & McKenzie’s commitment to public service and encourages other firms and corporations to provide such services. We are delighted to present this award to Baker & McKenzie and congratulate them on their success.”
“Service to the community is an essential element of Firm life,” said Christine Lagarde, Chairman of the Firm’s Executive Committee. “Through its Pro Bono and Public Service Initiative, the Firm works not only to be an active participant in the community, but also to guide and inspire clients and fellow lawyers and staff to engage in the same worthwhile activities in service to the public. We are proud of our commitment to pro bono and public service.”
Commenting on the award, Betsy Morgan, Co-Chair of Baker & McKenzie’s North American Pro Bono Committee, said, “The success of our Partners to Serve Program and our many other pro bono projects have been rewarding in every aspect. It is a privilege to serve the communities in which we live and work in partnership with our clients and an honor to be recognized for it. “
Baker & McKenzie attorneys have been active in many areas of public interest law in its offices across North America. Pro bono clients of the Firm include disabled children seeking special education services and disability benefits, students facing school expulsion and exclusion, parents seeking custody of their children and child support, elders seeking civil remedies for abuse, immigrant applicants seeking political asylum, defendants seeking reform of the criminal justice system and exoneration, and many others.