During and around the week of October 22nd to 28th, PILI participated in the national celebration of Pro Bono Week. Celebrated annually and organized nationally by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, Pro Bono Week is intended to inspire even greater pro bono participation by lawyers throughout the nation.
PILI celebrated with a variety of events across the state over the course of several weeks, bringing together hundreds of pro bono advocates. We also recognized six local attorneys and one law firm through several of our Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees for their outstanding pro bono work during events held throughout the week. Congratulations to our award recipients! Our team was on hand as well for the CBA YLS’ 29th Annual Pro Bono & Community Service Fair.
We also celebrated Pro Bono Week with some of our partners by doing pro bono! PILI held several Illinois Free Legal Answers clinics across the state, including at State Farm as part of a multi-state clinic, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Deere & Company, DePaul University College of Law, Southern Illinois University Law School and with our Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee. Through these clinics, over 60 civil legal questions from those in need were answered, which makes a big difference.
As a firm, Miller King does pro bono work for Land of Lincoln, PILI, Catholic Charities, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and as assigned by the law library. This work includes obtaining divorces and parenting plans; securing maintenance, child support, and money judgments; drafting wills and powers of attorney; obtaining a presumptive death certificate; acting as a mediator and GAL; and providing consultations to survivors of domestic violence. The attorneys also take an active role in the community, donating their time and professional advice to causes and organizations such as Catholic Children’s Home Advisory board, Knights of Columbus, the Riverbend Growth Association Young Adults Committee, Red Mass, Junior Explorers Football Club, and other not-for-profit organizations.
Brianna Pierson is a JusticeCorps Fellow in Madison County through the Illinois Bar Foundation. Brianna has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Law Library and directing patrons to pro bono resources. She is credited with the Law Library and Legal Self-Help Center’s ability to maintain the same service levels many of the patrons have grown accustomed to during a brief period of turnover. She regularly assists with making pro bono referrals and directing self-represented litigants to the Legal Advice Clinic.
This was the inaugural presentation of this award named after Judge Barbara Crowder (Ret.) who served as chair of PILI’s Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee from its launch in 2011 until her retirement. The award is presented to a courthouse staff person or member of the judiciary who demonstrate their support for pro bono in the courthouse on a regular basis.
In the Fifth Judicial Circuit, Angel Wawrzynek received the Pro Bono Service Award.
Angel Wawrzynek is a partner at Armstrong, Grove & Wawrzynek LLC focusing on estate planning, trust and estate administration, and guardianship. Angel is the Vice President of the Eastern Illinois Estate Planning Council, a member of the PILI Board of Directors, a member of the Fifth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, and a member of the Illinois State Bar Association Trusts and Estates Section Council. Angel is a very active member of the fifth circuit PILI Pro Bono committee, having chaired the committee for several years. As part of the committee, she has been involved in planning and participating in several events, including annual pro bono recognition dinners, CLEs, expungement clinics and community legal education events. Angel continuously steps up and accepts pro bono cases for Land of Lincoln Legal Aid and PILI through the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network. Since 2018, she has handled 12 pro bono cases for Land of Lincoln and over 20 hours of direct Pro Bono representation over the last two years as well as assisting Illinoisans in need across the state on Illinois Free Legal Answers.
In the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Ellyn Bullock and Donna Davis both received the Community Legal Services Award.
Ellyn Bullock owns Bullock Law, LLC. and focuses on adoption and child welfare. Ellyn’s work includes assisted reproduction and surrogacy in addition to domestic and international adoptions and guardianship of Minor Children and she uses her specific expertise to assist through pro bono. She works with immigrants on issues of custody and adoption and guardianship that can lead to citizenship through special immigrant juvenile status or SIJS. She handles many pro bono cases, especially adoptions and guardianships of children through Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. She also accepts GAL appointments and waives GAL fees in Court appointed cases involving minor children. Outside of child welfare, and in light of her federal court clerkship background, Ellyn has handled several pro bono appointed prisoner civil rights cases.
Donna Davis serves as Associate General Counsel for the University of Illinois Foundation in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Donna provides legal advice and representation to the University of Illinois Foundation, including the Board of Directors, Executive Officers, and Professional Staff. Serving as a Board of Trustees member for the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, Donna utilizes her skills and resources as an attorney to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those in need. She has been instrumental in assisting with the launch of the new Sixth Circuit Virtual Help Desk by assisting in testing and launching the new virtual system in addition to volunteering to staff it frequently when we would otherwise not have a volunteer.
In the Tenth Judicial Circuit, Tamara (Tami) Meister received the Joseph A. Dailing Pro Bono Service Award.
Tamara (Tami) Meister is a partner at Butler Giraudo & Meister where she focuses her practice on complex financial matters and custody disputes. Tami is an active member in her community, often encouraging and recruiting peers to do pro bono work as a member of the Tenth Circuit Judicial Pro Bono Committee. She uses her experience in family law to address a large area of need. She quickly took the initiative of helping start up a pro bono divorce clinic through the Committee’s legal aid partners and went above and beyond to bring each case to a successful conclusion. In addition to taking on matters, Tami established a model for the clinic that is being adopted by other law firms and attorneys. Tami also volunteers for the PILI Self-Represented Litigant Help Desks in Peoria and Tazewell Counties as well as helping those with family law questions through Illinois Free Legal Answers. Her attention to detail, preparation and knowledge of pertinent case law ensure that her clients receive the answers and assistance they need, and she is a model for pro bono in the community.
In the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, Stacey McCullough received the Pro Bono Service Award.
Stacey McCullough is an Attorney at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC focusing on criminal defense. She is the Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, a former President of the DuPage Bar Association, and a former President of the DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association as well as a member of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee. Stacey’s experiences and involvement in the legal community have instilled in her the understanding that each case and client she takes on is unique and important. Stacey is often volunteering her time and legal expertise throughout DuPage County. Most recently, for several years she has played a pivotal role with the DuPage County Expungement Clinic. She has spent countless hours aiding hundreds of Expungement Clinic clients obtain records relief. In the last year, Stacey has taught volunteer CLE training sessions, spent countless hours reviewing charts and petitions and will follow through at the end of the year appearing at the expungement hearings over the course of several Fridays. Stacey’s devotion to this program not only assists Self-Represented litigants get the fresh start they need, and which the law says they are entitled to, she sets an example for her profession and the DuPage community as a whole.
As we wrap up Pro Bono Week 2023, we want to say an enthusiastic “THANK YOU!” to all of PILI’s pro bono volunteers from across the state through our pro bono opportunities, including our Self-Represented Litigant Help Desks, Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network, Illinois Free Legal Answers and Conflict of Interest Pro Bono Referral Panel. Though the efforts of these volunteers, PILI has helped nearly 4,000 low-income Illinoisans over the last year with their civil legal issues.