AILA's Pro Bono Newsletter

Pro Bono Newsletter, Fall 2013

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Pro Bono Heroes Recognition Program by Phyllis Forman R ecently, the AILA National Pro Bono Services Committee initiated an exciting new program to promote and recognize the outstanding pro bono contributions made to immigrants and their communities. The Pro Bono Heroes recognition program honors individuals and organizations that engage in and promote pro bono service as a professional value. Under the leadership of Christie Popp, vice-chair of the AILA National Pro Bono Services Committee, a four-member sub-committee designed and implemented the program, which launched in the second quarter of 2013. AILA's goal of recognizing significant efforts in order to inspire others to engage in pro bono work guided the sub-committee in developing a structure for the program. Still, several conceptual and organizational questions arose. Firstly, what criteria should determine outstanding contributions to pro bono work? Direct client representation, especially in complex cases, seemed obvious. But what about the individuals and organizations involved in the promotion of pro bono service who are not technically engaged in pro bono work? The sub-committee decided that they also needed to spotlight individuals and organizations that regularly promote pro bono service, such as non-profit organizations that place cases with pro bono attorneys, supervisors of law school clinics, and law firms who strongly support their attorneys doing pro bono work. Keeping in mind the goals of recognizing current service and furthering future pro bono values, the committee created four categories of Heroes. One group singles out an individual AILA member who demonstrates significant commitment to pro bono immigration representation or related service. The second category is similar to the first but non-AILA members also qualify. Category three focuses on organizations or institutions such as a non-profit, immigration court, law school clinic or law firm that engages in or promotes pro bono work through training, mentoring, assigning/supervision of cases and the like. The final category recognizes an individual who promotes pro bono as a professional value but does not necessarily provide direct representation, such as the pro bono coordinator at a law firm, or a non-profit attorney who continually goes above and beyond the scope of his/her paid duties, either through direct representation or placement of cases with pro bono attorneys. With the categories settled, the sub-committee focused on ensuring a geographically diverse pool of nominees. The sub-committee created four regions based on the number of members in each AILA chapter. The next matter to settle was the frequency of the awards and the number of honorees for each period. The total annual number of honored Heroes needed to be small enough to be meaningful. However, the number had to be large enough annually to stimulate interest in nominating deserving candidates. With these considerations in mind we decided to honor four pro bono heroes on a quarterly basis (one nominee from each of the four regions), for a total of 16 annually. This autumn an organization or firm promoting the professional values of pro bono immigration legal work will be recognized. Nominate your AILA Pro Bono Hero for Fall 2013! With the parameters decided and the nomination form created, the program was ready for launch. Reaching out to each chapter's pro bono liaisons and soliciting nominations via InfoNet and the "AILA 8" have proved effective ways to alert members to vote for their Hero. The sub-committee carefully reviews all submissions. The ultimate selection is difficult but the committee always keeps in mind the goal of promoting pro bono service as a central professional value in honoring the most "heroic" of the nominees. AILA recognized its first ever Pro Bono Heroes in July 2013. The committee announced the second group in late September and nominations for the fall heroes will open shortly thereafter—so start thinking of your organizational nominee now! Visit probonoheroes to read more. Phyllis Forman is a member of AILA's National Pro Bono Services Committee. 7

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