Foley is pleased to announce that its Milwaukee office has been named the winner of the 2010 Milwaukee Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award. This prestigious honor is bestowed on members of the legal community that demonstrate a strong commitment to generously giving their time and talent in support of pro bono services.
As a firm Foley is deeply committed to the principle and practice of pro bono service, believing that it is an integral part of our responsibility as lawyers. In Milwaukee alone we demonstrated that commitment by donating more than $4 million in professional services in 2009. Additionally, a number of Foley attorneys have received individual recognition and awards for their pro bono contributions from a wide variety of notable organizations. But far more significant are the results we have achieved on behalf of those in need.
While the pro bono activities of the Milwaukee office are extensive, we highlighted eight programs in our nomination papers. We believe these programs, which reflect hundreds of hours of individual commitment, illustrate the reach and overall effectiveness of the Milwaukee office’s collective pro bono efforts.
The Wills for Heroes program, led by Kristine Havlik and supported by an eight-member Foley team, has been very successful since its launch in 2001. This national program, developed in conjunction with the State Bar of Wisconsin, provides eligible emergency personnel with free basic estate planning documents. The Foley Milwaukee team contributed well over 1,000 pro bono hours to the development and execution of this program.
For nearly five years, Foley attorneys have provided legal assistance to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), a community development financial institution that provides business education and financing to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Under the direction of partner Ed Hammond, nearly 15 Milwaukee office attorneys regularly donate a wide range of business law services to this deserving organization. During the past year alone, our attorneys donated over 200 hours in legal services to the WWBIC and its clients.
The Milwaukee office was an early supporter of the Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program, which was established through Marquette University law school to provide voluntary mediation between lenders and their residential borrowers facing foreclosure in Milwaukee County. Partners Michael Gehl and David Reicher were involved in the initial planning meetings, which resulted in Foley providing a site for mediation proceedings and having 30 Milwaukee attorneys from a variety of disciplines trained as mediators. Our attorneys have resolved more than 40 foreclosure disputes to date.
The volunteer hours contributed by Foley Milwaukee attorneys in support of the Milwaukee Justice Center and its programs add up to more than 1000 hours annually. Our attorneys staff the organization’s self-help desks one day each week for two hours, providing advice and assistance in filling out legal forms to individuals who would otherwise not have any legal guidance. Partner Lyn Zigman coordinates staffing assignments, and partner Andy Wronski actively participates in the Operations Committee responsible for the overall oversight and staffing of the Justice Center.
For decades partner Tom Shriner has been actively involved with the Seventh Circuit Pro Bono Program. Through this program teams of attorneys in the Milwaukee office are assigned as many as eight cases annually that involve either direct criminal appeals or allegations of constitutional/civil rights violations. It takes hundreds of hours to master the documentation and present the matter in each case, and all of this work is done by Foley on a pro bono basis.
Through the efforts of partner Rebecca House, the Milwaukee office provides pro bono support to Kids Matter, an organization of volunteers that advocates for abused and neglected children in Milwaukee County Children’s Court. As part of the organization’s volunteer attorney program, attorneys from Foley and other firms are recruited and trained to take pro bono guardianship cases on behalf of children.
For a number of years Foley has supported the work of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee in a variety of pro bono capacities. Partner Peter Stone currently serves as President of this organization’s Board of Directors. A standing group of attorneys in the Milwaukee office accepts referrals to represent needy Milwaukee residents in state and federal court with serious civil legal problems involving family law, consumer law, public benefits, housing law, unemployment compensation and civil rights, as well as discrimination matters. Our attorneys also represent Legal Aid itself in court, primarily defending appeals.
On behalf of the Wisconsin State Bar Legal Assistance Committee, partner Harvey Kurtz worked extensively with the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) to draft rules that require banks to enhance their investment and interest provisions for IOLTA trust accounts. Following hundreds of hours of pro bono work, new rules were adopted by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. The expected increase in Wisconsin’s IOLTA income could mean an additional $2 million or more annually to provide legal services for Wisconsin residents in need.
The entire Milwaukee office can be proud of its work with Milwaukee Brewers Charities on our “Ks for a Cause” program. Through this partnership, charitable contributions from Foley attorneys and staff, the Brewers and the community at large are made to the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee. In its first two years of operation, this program raised approximately $275,000 for the Task Force.
The programs and efforts highlighted above are just a small sampling of what we have achieved through the collective efforts of everyone in Milwaukee. We are truly honored to have our pro bono contributions and commitment recognized with this prominent award.