Ballard Spahr Wins American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award
Ballard Spahr will accept the American Bar Association's (ABA) 2018 Pro Bono Publico Award tomorrow at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago. The award recognizes the firm's outstanding commitment to providing volunteer legal services to underserved and disadvantaged populations.
Ballard Spahr is one of five recipients of the 2018 award—two individuals and three firms—which the ABA's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service presents annually. It is the organization's highest honor and is awarded to individual lawyers, organizations, and institutions in the legal profession, including small and large law firms, government counsel offices, and corporate law departments.
"We are honored to receive this recognition of our program," said Pro Bono Counsel Mary Gay Scanlon, who will accept the award on the firm's behalf. "We have always maintained a thriving and robust practice, without having to mandate pro bono service. Pro bono work is simply a bedrock of our firm culture. I'm proud of the work we've done and will continue to do."
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the firm's formal pro bono program. Ballard Spahr was one of the first law firms in the country to create a full-time pro bono counsel position and apply the practice group model to pro bono services. Since the inception of its program, Ballard Spahr lawyers have contributed more than half a million hours of pro bono work to individuals, organizations, and causes.
Highlights of the firm's pro bono work include its representation of women athletes. Ballard Spahr lawyers have represented the players of the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team and the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team in their pursuit of equitable pay. In 2017, the firm negotiated on behalf of the hockey players for a new labor contract with USA Hockey, which provides fair pay and equitable support for women's and girls' programs nationwide.
Ballard Spahr also dedicates pro bono work to criminal justice reform, including death penalty, prisoner civil rights, and expungement cases. More than 100 Ballard Spahr attorneys represented clients pro bono through Clemency Project 2014, addressing inmates serving disproportionately harsh prison terms under then-mandatory sentencing laws. President Barack Obama granted 29 petitions filed by Ballard Spahr.
The firm's pro bono efforts include longstanding community outreach programs, such as small business, estate planning, and family law clinics. For the past 22 years, Ballard Spahr has partnered with the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) to host legal clinics at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in Philadelphia. More than 200 Ballard Spahr attorneys, law students, and paralegals have spent more than 3,800 hours counseling homeless clients at bimonthly legal clinics at the shelter and have volunteered an additional 10,500 hours representing clients referred by HAP, including for matters involving identity documents, public benefits, and housing.
As a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, originally established by the ABA and now administered by the Pro Bono Institute, Ballard Spahr has annually made and met a commitment to donate at least 3 percent of its billable hours to pro bono service—more than 43,000 hours this past year. Ballard Spahr consistently ranks among the top 100 law firms in the Am Law Pro Bono Report and has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of its outstanding commitment to pro bono work.