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Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award

The Legal Assistance Committee promotes the establishment and maintenance of organizations that provide legal services to low- and moderate-income people. It explores new ways to increase the accessibility of legal services. The committee provides encouragement and assistance to others in improving legal services delivery while promoting pro bono service to Wisconsin lawyers as a way to give back.

To that end, the Legal Assistance Committee recognizes attorneys and organizations for their outstanding pro bono service through the Pro Bono Attorney/Organization of the Year Awards.

This year, the committee presents the award to two outstanding attorneys who each filled a critical pro bono need in 2020, assisting workers who were unemployed due to the pandemic to obtain unemployment benefits. They also volunteered their time to advise other attorneys on helping clients with their unemployment benefit issues.

​​Rebecca Salawdeh

Rebecca Salawdeh is a solo practitioner in Wauwatosa whose practice involves representing employees in work-related matters. Realizing that the pandemic was having a devastating impact on workers, Salawdeh helped Legal Action of Wisconsin create and launch a free virtual unemployment legal clinic beginning in early April 2020. She then volunteered with the clinic nearly every week during 2020, assisting over 125 workers with their unemployment claims and appeals. In addition to her volunteer work with clients, Salawdeh also spent a significant amount of time using her expertise to help Legal Action staff and other volunteers untangle the complexities of Wisconsin unemployment law and pandemic benefits. Salawdeh has been a regular volunteer with the Volunteer Lawyers Project at Legal Action since 2009. Legal Action noted in their nomination that they are “incredibly grateful to Rebecca for sharing her expertise in employment law and her consistent dedication to pro bono service.”

Salawdeh is also a leader in her community advocating for race equity and diversity initiatives. Rebecca is an active participant in a Wauwatosa-based community organization, Tosa Together, and helped launch Tosa Talks, a monthly Facebook education series that seeks to foster meaningful discussions around racial and social justice.

Salawdeh is a member of the State Bar’s Civil Rights and Liberties Section, the National Employment Lawyers Association, and the Wisconsin Employment Lawyers Association, serving in numerous leadership roles. She earned her J.D. and M.S. - Industrial Relations from U.W. Madison in 1996.

Watch the presentation of the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award

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Victor Forberger

Victor Forberger has a solo law practice in Madison, where he concentrates in labor and employment law. In 2020, Forberger provided pro bono representation to numerous Wisconsin workers, helping them obtain unemployment benefits to support themselves and their families. He also serves as the supervising attorney for the Unemployment Compensation Appeals Clinic at U.W. Law School and volunteers with Madison Area Job Transition.

Forberger was nominated by a number of his clients who expressed overwhelming appreciation for the assistance that he provided. As one of the clients who nominated Forberger noted, “Victor was the first person to offer me hope.” Forberger volunteered his time to help unemployed workers navigate a complicated and overwhelmed unemployment benefits system, keeping them informed, keeping their claims moving forward, and, in many cases, winning their appeals.

Before moving to Wisconsin, Forberger worked in Massachusetts for a year and a half as an administrative law judge for unemployment appeals and then for four years as a hearing officer for the Massachusetts labor commission. During that time, he heard more than 400 unemployment cases and presided over dozens of unfair labor practice proceedings as well as representation petitions. Forberger is a 1997 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law.​

Watch the presentation of the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award

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