Section of Litigation Recognizes Diversity, Pro Bono and Public Service
The second annual Diversity Leadership Award was presented at the Section of Litigation welcome reception in April. This year’s recipients included Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. and the Coca-Cola Company Legal Division.
“This year’s recipients have proven their commitment to diversity through long-standing efforts to make a difference in improving the opportunities for all,” said Section Chair Lorna Schofield of New York. “The Section of Litigation applauds their efforts to make our profession more welcoming, inclusive, and truly representative of the population we serve. Their efforts leave a lasting impression on all of us to make diversity a priority.”
The section also celebrated the pro bono and public service contributions made by lawyers and law firms with the presentation of the annual John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award. This year’s award recipients were Martha Bergmark of Jackson, Miss., the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, and the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership.
The awards were presented at a special luncheon during the annual conference featuring New York State Chief Judge (ret.) Judith S. Kaye as the keynote speaker.
Judith S. Kaye spoke about lessons learned from her tenure on the courts. She reflected on her accomplishments and her observation that courtrooms are laboratories for democracy—where many look to precedent and others see the courts as a vital engine for change in shaping and determining law. The law, she said, remains equal to the demands of a maturing and progressing society, where advocates bring their arguments forward and help to shape legal interpretations. Kaye noted that this tension between precedent and change is a central dilemma facing the courts.
In recognizing the work of the award recipients, she noted that every day lawyers dedicate themselves to public service. Kaye commended lawyers who meet the call to provide legal representation for those in need. In particular, she cited the commitment being made despite the fact that lawyers have not been spared in these turbulent times in the legal marketplace. She noted that lawyers have not lost sight of their obligations, practical and personal, to continue to help meet the demand for quality legal representation – a need that continues to outstrip the ability to provide services in this challenging environment.
Kaye summed up her remarks by noting that public service and pro bono work reap their own rewards –- when you give to others you feel better about yourself and the world. She ended by saying that in these unsettling times, the road to personal happiness lies in a personal commitment to helping others.
Luncheon guests also enjoyed a musical performance by Rosie’s Broadway Kids, an arts education organization dedicated to providing quality instruction in music and dance at no cost to New York City public schools and students. The project was founded by the actress Rosie O’Donnell.
In honoring the awardees, Schofield said, “The Section of Litigation encourages our members and all lawyers to follow the examples set by these remarkable lawyers and organizations. The awards, and these outstanding recipients, are a fine tribute to the memory of Judge Wisdom who worked tirelessly to ensure access to justice for those most in need. It is our commitment to his principles, as individuals and as a section, that make the justice system work.
Learn more about the meeting at www.abanet.org/litigation/sectionannual.