In 2017, PILI will be celebrating our 40th anniversary. We’ve been spotlighting some of the influential people who helped build up the organization from a small internship program to what it is today. Chris Horsch was elected to PILI’s Board of Directors in October 1985. Since then, PILI has benefitted from his passion, dedication and insight as an early pro bono advocate.
Chris received his law degree in 1966 and, after serving in the Navy for three years, he started practicing in 1969 at Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz (now known as Vedder Price) in Chicago. At that point, not many attorneys had a regular pro bono practice. “Pro bono activities at Chicago law firms at that time were much more informal than they are today,” he explained. “We didn’t have a ‘Pro Bono Director’ or even a committee.”
Even so, Chris saw how his position as a lawyer uniquely qualified him to fill a need in the community. Early in the 1970s he, together with a group of other Vedder Price attorneys, volunteered at a legal aid office at Hull House in Uptown one night a week. So when one of PILI’s founders, John Clay, approached Vedder Price about getting involved with PILI in the fall of 1985, Chris seemed like a natural fit to serve on the Board of Directors. “My name came up because I had consistently been involved in pro bono activities and had encouraged others to do the same,” he said.
Chris was at Vedder Price until 1989, except for two years (1972-74) when he worked with a business development company in Appalachia funded by the federal Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1989, he became General Counsel of the South Shore Bank of Chicago, where he remained until he retired in 2009.
Since his retirement, Chris has remained active in the community. During the school year, he volunteers weekly at a writing center at Chicago Public School’s Lincoln Park High School. He also regularly attends PILI’s activities. “I get generally a very positive reaction when I attend PILI meetings and events,” he said. “There tends to be large numbers of diverse and interesting people with good stories of the direct and indirect impact of PILI and its programs and partners. This makes the evening news much more easy to stomach.”
For the past 30 years, Chris has emobided the mission of PILI to expand the availability of legal services for people in need. As one of PILI’s most ardent supporters, he is committed to the work. “Although the mission has broadened somewhat, I think that the sensitizing experience of a summer at a legal assistance agency for an Intern or Fellow is priceless,” he said. “Wherever he or she practices law, including at a large corporate law firm or the law department of a large business corporation, there is a first-hand exposure to the enormous amount of unmet legal needs and a development of an understanding that all lawyers need to participate in doing something about it. The creation of the ‘lifetime commitment’ is real and very important.”