Retired judge: Attorneys who work pro bono deserve praise
Attorneys are often maligned by the public. Jokes can be easy to make and are oftentimes even funny. As in all professions, a few bad apples often form public opinion. It thus may come as a surprise to many that there are a significant number of lawyers who not only care, but also donate their time and services without compensation. A goodly portion come from our own community.
I know. As a retired local judge, I have among other things taken a position as Volunteer Pro Bono Coordinator for Prairie State Legal Services in Ottawa. For the five counties of LaSalle, Grundy, Lee, Bureau and Putnam, I try to obtain private volunteer attorneys for those low-income persons the local office cannot handle.
Prairie State in Ottawa has two full-time attorneys, Donald Dirks and Jean Fletcher. There is a fantastic nonlawyer staff of three others, Jane Berry, Chris Weygand and Amanda Aben. I mention all of these people now because they deserve recognition.
Don, Jean and all the staff work hard and are dedicated. They, however, cannot represent all of the many needy in five geographically large counties. To help fill the void, I now have asked the local private attorneys to help provide free pro bono services when and where needed.
The public should know that a large number of private counsel have answered the call to help. I cannot name them all, but the legal community knows who they are. These attorneys, often overworked themselves, find the time to give back. They help countless people in need who would otherwise have no representation.
It is with them in mind during this week of the Pro Bono Attorney, that I and the people at Prairie State thank and congratulate them for their selfless efforts. There are all kinds of lawyers. You represent the best of our profession.
James L. Brusatte