In April 2018, Godfrey & Kahn provided pro bono legal services to assist with the development of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee. As a part of its commitment to this organization, each year for Earth Day, Godfrey & Kahn employees (pictured) volunteer to return to the Arboretum to help plant new trees and maintain the land.
Oct. 21, 2020 – Practicing law is a privilege – and with that privilege comes a responsibility to make justice accessible to all.
This is the philosophy at the heart of Godfrey & Kahn, S.C., 2020 recipient of the Pro Bono Firm/Organization of the Year from the State Bar of Wisconsin Legal Assistance Committee. The award recognizes outstanding pro bono service.
Attorneys with the law firm are encouraged to devote a 50 hours each year to pro bono services. “This work doesn’t add any dollars to our bottom line, but it makes our firm culture stronger, and inspires us to be better people, and better attorneys,” says firm shareholder Kendall Harrison of Madison.
The State Bar celebrates this award and others each year with the Member Recognition Celebration, held in June at the State Bar Annual Meeting & Conference. Due to COVID-19 and concerns for the safety of State Bar members, the celebration of our 2020 award recipients is held via video. Join in and see the ceremony on WisBar.org, including Harrison's acceptance remarks.
When Lawyers Volunteer 2,000-plus Hours
Thanks to the firm’s policy, Godfrey attorneys donated more than 2,000 hours in 2019 alone “to an impressive range of pro bono clients and causes,” said Miri Pogoriler, chair of the committee.
Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.
Godfrey attorneys used those hours to provide direct representation to indigent litigants, advocate for law reform, staff ‘brief legal advice’ clinics, raise funds for legal services organizations, and help other firms and businesses develop their own pro bono initiatives.
In addition, on behalf of the Wisconsin State Public Defender clients, Godfrey attorneys donated hundreds of pro bono hours handling four criminal appeals involving ineffective assistance of counsel, Chapter 51 commitment, racial profiling in traffic stops, and involuntary medical treatment of inmates.
Other attorneys at the firm helped a victim of sex trafficking regain time with her children, represented dozens of tenants in court through the Eviction Defense Project, and helped staff the Mobile Legal Clinic in Milwaukee. One attorney alone represented 35 families in eviction cases.
And there’s more – visit the firm’s website to see a list of the types of pro bono work their attorneys are doing.
Godfrey & Kahn has a long history of dedication to pro bono service. In 2010, the firm was recipient of the Hotline Firm of the Year Award by the State Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service. The Lawyer Hotline Program is a public service component of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, where hotline attorney volunteers answer simple legal questions over the phone, allowing callers to better assess whether they wish to hire a lawyer or use the resource information provided to them.
Strengthening the Community
“Our pro bono efforts are not intended to draw a spotlight. We perform this work to strengthen our community and to give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard,” says Kendall Harrison, a shareholder with Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Harrison said he was “thrilled” when he learned of the firm’s award. “Law firms are judged on many metrics but not usually on the work that they give away for free,” he said. “Our pro bono efforts are not intended to draw a spotlight. We perform this work to strengthen our community and to give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.”
“This work doesn’t add any dollars to our bottom line, but it makes our firm culture stronger, and inspires us to be better people, and better attorneys,” Harrison said.
Being Part of the Solution for Access to Justice
Everyone should be equal under the eyes of the law, Harrison said. “But we all know that this isn’t always the case. Lawyers can be part of the solution.”
“The Pledge of Allegiance ends with these words: ‘Liberty and justice for all.’ When you take on a pro bono case, that’s the higher good that you are serving: Liberty and justice for all, no matter your race, color, creed, or the size of your bank account,” Harrison said.
“I urge you to heed that call, in whatever way you can. Don’t turn away because you feel you can only do a little – it all counts. It all makes this country a better place,” Harrison said. “It all gets us one step closer to achieving the lofty ideals on which this country was founded.”
A Virtual Round of Applause to 15 Leaders Who Make a Difference
They are members of the legal community who make a difference – by mentoring others, by offering their services in pro bono work, by leading the way in bettering the practice of law in Wisconsin. We congratulate these 15 award recipients, and offer them a round of applause.
Recognizing our award recipients virtually this year due to COVID-19 limitations, please take a few minutes to hear each award winner as we proudly present their video acceptance speeches.