Pro Bono Reception Remarks by Board Chair John G. Levi | Board of Directors Meeting

LSC Board of Directors Meeting | Pro Bono Awards | Charleston, SC
January 28, 2016

Good evening, I am John Levi, the 10th Chair of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation, and it is my pleasure on behalf of the Board to welcome you to this reception.

Tonight we recognize three accomplished South Carolina attorneys, a distinguished judge, a leading law firm, and an innovative collaborative project for their important pro bono contributions to LSC’s grantee in the state, South Carolina Legal Services.

I want to thank Nelson Mullins for hosting us this evening here in this wonderful facility and we look forward to being formally welcomed in a few minutes by your partner who has played such a leading role in the firm’s exemplary pro bono efforts, George Cauthen.

We will also be privileged to hear from Alice Paylor, Past President of the South Carolina Bar Association, and Marie-Louise Ramsdale, President of the South Carolina Bar Foundation.

I also want to acknowledge chair Mary Ryan and other members of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, who as part of a tradition that they and we have established these past four years, are holding their January meeting concurrently with ours.

Before we begin, let me also recognize LSC’s outstanding president Jim Sandman, who on Sunday will mark his fifth anniversary with us after an exceptional career during which he was managing partner of the Arnold & Porter firm and president of the DC Bar.

Most of our Board members are with us tonight, and I am so very proud of them.

Martha Minow, our Vice Chair and Dean of the Harvard Law School.

Charles Keckler, a Presidential Scholar at George Mason University.

Harry Korrell, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle.

Victor Maddox, of Louisville’s Fultz Maddox Dickens.

Laurie Mikva of Chicago, a former civil legal aid lawyer who is now Assistant Clinical Professor at Northwestern Law School Bluhm Legal Clinic.

Father Joseph Pius Pietrzyk, a Dominican friar engaged in doctoral studies in Rome, who in a former life worked for three years as Corporate and Securities associate at my firm Sidley Austin in Chicago.

Julie Reiskin, the Executive Director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

Gloria Valencia-Weber, a professor at the University of  New Mexico School of Law

Robert Grey, a Hunton & Williams partner in Richmond, and a former ABA President, will arrive tomorrow


It is the LSC Board’s tradition to travel to most every state before returning to one where we have already held a meeting and since we hold only three such meetings a year, the LSC Board will not likely be back in South Carolina very soon, and that makes the awards we are giving this evening very special indeed.

These awards reflect LSC’s significant commitment to pro bono service, evidenced by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force, and most recently, by our Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grants program, first funded by Congress in 2014 for $2.5 million and increased to $4 million this year.

A few months ago, LSC awarded this year’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants to 15 legal aid organizations across the country to support projects that develop replicable innovations in pro bono services for low-income clients.  In 2014, we made 11 such awards.

Many of the projects will use technology to connect low-income populations to resources and services, while others aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness through partnerships with law schools, community organizations, and in-house corporate attorneys. Some projects will address issues affecting specific populations such as seniors, veterans, and low-income students.

As we — and you — work hard to promote pro bono, however, we all know that pro bono is most effective when supported by properly funded and structured legal aid programs that screen cases and provide essential support to volunteer lawyers with training, materials and the expertise of staff attorneys.

Pro bono lawyers working in conjunction with lawyers at LSC-funded programs have helped tens of thousands of people across the country and play an essential role in LSC's mission to help ensure equal access to justice.

That mission reflects a fundamental responsibility of our profession, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently observed:

“Lawyers have a license to practice law, a monopoly on certain services.  But for that privilege and status, lawyers have an obligation to provide legal services to those without the wherewithal to pay, to respond to needs outside themselves, to help repair tears in their communities.”

At LSC’s 40th Anniversary conference in Washington in 2014, William Hubbard, the immediate past president of the ABA and Nelson Mullins partner who will be speaking at our luncheon tomorrow, sounded the alarm:

“We cannot accept the status quo.  We must lead.  As lawyers, we must lead – not follow….  We all know that Dr. King, when he talked about the presence of justice was not just talking about justice for some.  He was talking about justice for all.”

Tonight we honor some South Carolina lawyers who are indeed leading — by example — in this important mission.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our host, Nelson Mullins partner George Cauthen.

I am especially pleased that George has been able to join us this evening since he not only has played a big role in developing Nelson Mullins pro bono practice, he has also been strong supporter of LSC.

His zealous advocacy of behalf of LSC was recognized by the ABA with its  Grassroots Advocacy Award in 2012. 

His contributions have also been recognized by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Arthur von Briesen Award, the United Way of the Midlands Live United Volunteer Award, and several other service awards.

George has held leadership positions with a number of nonprofit organizations, and since 2008, he has served on the Board of Directors for South Carolina Legal Services.

George chairs Nelson Mullins’ Bankruptcy Practice Group and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Please welcome George Cauthen.