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New Business Law Section award to recognize public service

Senior Editor Top Stories

Business Law SectionWith the ABA’s 2022 National Celebration of Pro Bono week fast approaching, the Business Law Section’s Pro Bono Committee has created a new award to recognize the outstanding public service performed by its members.

The award recognizes attorneys who exemplify the profession’s highest ideals by directly providing, facilitating, or promoting legal services to underserved communities and those less fortunate.

Committee Co-Chair Kathy McLeroy of Carlton Fields in Tampa wanted to ensure that members of the section, and not just the section itself, were properly recognized.

“Next month, our section will be awarded the Equal Justice Pro Bono Impact Award from Legal Services of Greater Miami,” McLeroy said. “As a section, it was great to get acknowledgment, but it made us realize that we weren’t properly recognizing our members who are actually doing the work.”

Kathy McLeroy

Kathy McLeroy

McLeroy, who also serves as co-chair of The Florida Bar Pro Bono Legal Services Committee, said the section has never had a capstone award that acknowledges individual work at a higher level. She also stressed that these types of awards help to encourage greater participation in pro bono work.

The nomination period for the award is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-October in coordination with the ABA’s pro bono week and will close on January 31, 2023. The committee plans to announce the inaugural award winner during The Florida Bar’s Annual Convention in June.

McLeroy and her co-chair, Chief Judge Laurel M. Isicoff of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Florida, have spent their entire legal careers as pro bono advocates.

“Growing up, my father was the president of the local United Way, and both of my parents always taught me to give back. I wanted to join a firm that was tolerant to public service, and Carlton Fields has always had a long history of advancing the cause of pro bono work,” McLeroy said.

McLeroy has been heavily involved with The Florida Bar Foundation. The Foundation awarded her its 2016 Medal of Honor Award. She says it’s gratifying to help the system.

Judge Isicoff, recipient of the Bar’s 2017 Distinguished Federal Judicial Services Award, encourages pro bono participation among lawyers appearing before her and allows pro bono volunteers to appear first (and usually out of turn) at motion calendar hearings.

“She’s a wonderful person and a rockstar. It’s always great having a judge as a co-chair because it adds some gravitas to the work we’re trying to accomplish,” McLeroy said.

Nominations for the award should provide specific, concrete examples of individual qualifications and can contain letters of support or articles describing the nominee’s work.

Once the period opens, nomination forms and other details will be available on the section’s website at https://flabizlaw.org/.

The award’s specific criteria include:

  • A demonstrated dedication to developing and delivering legal services to persons of limited means and/or underserved communities.
  • Providing significant work that develops innovative approaches that increase or facilitate the delivery of volunteer legal services and/or offered sustained pro bono legal counsel to nonprofit or charitable organizations whose primary purpose is to provide non-legal assistance to persons of limited means or underserved communities.
  • Creating or refining programs that serve to satisfy previously unmet needs of persons of limited means and/or underserved communities or extending legal services to persons of limited means and/or underserved communities.
  • Successfully litigating pro bono cases in any forum (administrative hearings, trial, arbitration, or appeal) that favorably affect persons of limited means and/or underserved communities.
  • Consistently exemplifying the profession’s highest ideals in ensuring the availability of legal services to persons of limited means and/or underserved communities.

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