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Lawyers make a difference for people and for society.
They solve legal problems, provide free legal help to
the poor, and give time to many other community efforts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Inspiring Stories of Service

How to Participate

how lawyers can and do help…

Pro Bono Service One would think that it would be relatively easy to change a death certificate that was incorrectly marked "divorced" when a couple was indeed married, but in reality it is not a simple matter. Mary Mansfield took on the challenge to help a disabled veteran prove he and his wife were married at the time of her death, which made him eligible for pension benefits.
Community Service The shelves at Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan are a little bit fuller these days, as are the bellies of thousands of hungry Michiganders, thanks to the generosity of Bodman employees.
Pro Bono Service Marcy Hahn is passionate about helping abused immigrant women get their lives back together. And she's good at it. Every year, thousands of women come to the United States on fiancée or student visas hoping for a better life. Unfortunately, their sponsors or "partners" don't always make it easy.
Pro Bono Service On Saturday, February 28, the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association (DDBA), in partnership with the Secretary of State (SOS) and the Department of Treasury (DOT), held a driver's license restoration event in Lansing. The event featured a presentation by the SOS and DOT on the steps that must be taken to restore a driver's license. Meanwhile, the SOS Mobile Office was on site to help attendees with a variety of services, including renewing license and registration tabs.
Pro Bono Service On Friday, Feb. 27, the Michigan Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (MCIRR) held a training in Lansing on trauma-informed practice and unique ethical considerations. The training was organized by MCIRR's Advocate Education Committee, which is chaired by Melissa Indish and Ruby Robinson.
Pro Bono Service On Feb. 21, 2015, the Delta Sigma Theta Detroit Alumnae Chapter Social Action Committee hosted an expungement fair at its headquarters in Detroit. Of the approximately 800 participants who attended, about 400 were eligible for completion of forms and instructions. There were 30 attorneys who volunteered their services.
Community Service The Genesee County Bar Association (GCBA) Family Court Committee and Community Action Committee sponsored a diaper drive from December 1 through January 22. When the curtains were parted at the Flint Masonic Temple during the GCBA's January 26 meeting, fluffy offerings spread from one side of the stage to the other. "I'm not surprised by the response," said Barb Dawes, chairperson of the Family Court Committee. "Genesee County attorneys are very generous with their time and money. This is a perfect example of what our attorneys do for the community."
Award Winners Plunkett Cooney attorneys Richard Gianino and Ellisse Thompson recently received the 2014 Pro Bono Recognition Award from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for their stellar work in securing lifetime disability benefits for a wheelchair-bound muscular sclerosis patient.
Pro Bono Service After a successful career as a defense attorney focusing on personal injury cases, Bill Jungerheld wanted to give back, but he was concerned that he lacked the proper legal experience to serve low-income clients looking for help in areas such as bankruptcy, employment, family law, and more. Of course, as with nearly every lawyer who has been in the same position, his concerns were quickly alleviated.
Pro Bono Service On Oct. 1, 2014, The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law took a significant step toward the future of legal education with the launch of its new Solo and Small Firm Incubator Program (SSFIP). The SSFIP is designed to help recent graduates learn the skills necessary to grow and sustain a solo practice while also encouraging pro bono service. Despite its very recent launch, the program already houses four recent graduates. Two of them have teamed up on an immigration law practice, while the other two are developing a criminal law practice and a family law/mediation practice respectively.
Pro Bono Service Peter Conway knows how difficult it is for solo practitioners to squeeze pro bono work into their busy schedules, especially challenging pro bono work. That's because Conway, a veteran solo practitioner who specializes in family law matters, is always giving back, and always going the extra mile. Conway is a "regular" at Lakeshore Legal Aid and Lapeer Area Coalition Against Domestic Assault, a local domestic violence shelter, where he handles domestic relations cases pro bono. To date, he has donated approximately $20,000 worth of legal services, although it's hard to place a value on the work he's done.
Pro Bono Service The State Bar of Michigan is asking lawyers to make Martin Luther King Day 2015 more than just another federal holiday. In honor of the great Martin Luther King Jr.—whose message and acts of non-violent protest shifted the conscience of a nation and ushered in a sea of change in public discourse on America's racial divide, economic justice, and human rights—the Bar is calling on lawyers to dedicate this day to helping someone in need through pro bono or community service. Make it a "day on, not a day off."
Pro Bono Service For the sixth year in a row, the State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative (PBI) sponsored Pro Bono Month in conjunction with the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Week celebration, a national recognition of pro bono activities. Pro Bono Week was first celebrated in 2005 in Chicago. It has since become an annual occasion, celebrated across the United States.
Pro Bono Service Anthony A. Asher's generous $500,000 donation to his alma mater, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law (UDM), helped the school raise old Engine No. 2 Firehouse (located across the street from the school) from the ashes, figuratively speaking, and make it the new home of the George J. Asher Clinical Law Center.
Pro Bono Service The State Bar of Michigan Intellectual Property Law Section and the Pro Bono Initiative have partnered to establish the Michigan Patent Pro Bono Project, which will provide pro bono legal assistance to low-income clients in need of help in patent cases.
Pro Bono Service

For Emiko Hayashi, pro bono is personal. Hayashi provides her pro bono clients with the same level of personal service, and the same amount of respect, as any paying client. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that she went above and beyond for a client she received from the State Bar of Michigan's Tax Pro Bono Referral Panel Program.

Pro Bono Service Much to Clinton Hubbell's disappointment, the Michigan Supreme Court recently held that juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama (which found this practice unconstitutional) are not entitled to resentencing. But this does nothing to change the fact that his heroic efforts in the case, People v. Cortez-Davis, are worthy of high praise.
Award Winners Michael Chielens spent his entire career helping those with nowhere else to turn. He carried with him a tremendous passion for helping the poor, wore his heart on his sleeve, and pulled no punches when it came to advocating for those in need. And he balanced this with a keen sense of humor and wonderful zest for life.
Award Winners Rosa Parks famously said, "I sat down to stand up for courage." Those words drove Holli J. Wallace to do the same. Upon graduating from Michigan State University College of Law in 2004 and entering the practice of law, Wallace quickly realized that her true calling was helping others who could not help themselves.
Award Winners Thomas G. McNeill doesn't do anything just halfway. In fact, he's not even satisfied with simply getting the job done. McNeill goes all way, and then he goes even further. That was certainly the case when the Eastern District came calling, asking him for help in meeting the court's growing need for pro bono volunteers to assist pro se litigants in civil cases.
Award Winners In his best-selling book "Outliers: The Story of Success," author Malcolm Gladwell claims the key to success in a given area is practicing that task for 10,000 hours. If Gladwell is right, it explains Susan Kornfield's excellence as a pro bono attorney. Kornfield, the chair of the intellectual property practice group at Bodman's Ann Arbor office, estimates she has provided 10,000 hours of free legal services since she began practicing law in 1982.
Award Winners Once a person becomes a convicted felon, most people only worry about whether or not she receives the proper punishment for her crimes. Michael Pitt is not most people. Upon discovering that scores of convicted women in Michigan Department of Corrections facilities suffered sexual harassment and abuse from prison guards, he did something about it.
Award Winners Over the course of two years, eight days of testimony during trial, and an ongoing appeals process, a team of four Michigan attorneys, including Kenneth M. Mogill, Dana M. Nessel, Robert A. Sedler, and Carole M. Stanyar, served as a model of superior lawyering.
Pro Bono Service For Michael Williams, pro bono means more than simply providing free legal services. It means helping a human being in need, and never expecting anything in return. That's his philosophy on life, and on the practice of law.
Pro Bono Service As associate dean of students and professionalism, Amy Timmer has made pro bono service a top priority at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, helping hundreds of clients and inspiring the next generation of attorneys.
Pro Bono Service With only 486 attorneys in the entire Upper Peninsula, the need for pro bono service in this part of the state is especially acute. It's also the reason why the work done by Victoria Radke and Legal Services of Northern Michigan (LSNM) is so important.
Pro Bono Service Ralph Engle is on a mission. As a regular volunteer with the Common Ground Legal Clinic, which provides legal services to the Common Ground homeless shelter in Pontiac, Engle has developed a great appreciation for the importance of giving back. On his own, he takes one or two cases from the clinic each month, and has already donated more than 200 hours of service.
Pro Bono Service To Mr. L, his minivan was everything. It was his home, his shelter, and his only source of transportation. So when it broke down, he took it to the repair shop, hoping the repairs would be minor. They weren't. And because he couldn't afford to pay, the repair shop deemed it abandoned, the police impounded it and issued papers allowing the towing company to "scrap" it, and Mr. L was homeless. That's when Chris Bernard stepped in.
Pro Bono Service The Capuchin Soup Kitchen Legal Clinic, which was born to serve the needs of metro-Detroit's 35,000 homeless people, has enabled dozens of low-income people to receive free, high-quality, and much-needed legal assistance.
Pro Bono Training Spring was in the air at the State Bar of Michigan's annual Spring Pro Bono Workshop, held last month in Lansing. The sixth annual workshop, sponsored by the State Bar's Pro Bono Initiative, was again a major success as pro bono leaders from around the state gathered to discuss the growing need for pro bono attorneys, and address the justice gap and unmet legal needs of the state's low-income citizens.
Pro Bono Service For Dykema lawyers Heidi Naasko and James Cameron, pro bono is more than just a professional obligation, it's a way of life. Eeach received a Pro Bono/Public Service Award at the Washtenaw County Bar Association 3rd annual Bar Revue & Silent Auction.
Pro Bono Service Bodman attorney Nathan Dupes and Rhadika Sarkar, a law student from Notre Dame Law School, helped a pro bono client get his juvenile criminal record expunged so he could move forward with his new life as a positive and productive member of society.
Pro Bono Service Lansing attorney Alecia M. Ruswinckel goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to pro bono legal work. That's why teaming up with Thomas M. Cooley's Service to Soldiers (STS) program made perfect sense.
Pro Bono Service Not long after America's automobile manufacturers retooled their operations to remain profitable, Robert Mossel embarked on a similar undertaking within the Ford Motor Company legal department.
Pro Bono Service Michele Halloran does whatever it takes to help those in need.
Pro Bono Service Ann Arbor can be a tough place for an Ohio State graduate. Thanks to the work of Ann Routt—deputy director of Legal Services of South Central Michigan—the city, its surrounding counties, and the state are better off.
Pro Bono Service Attorneys from Ford Motor Company and LeClairRyan law firm participated in Elder Law of Michigan's Estate Planning Clinic at a Detroit senior living complex (March 14, 2013) and a senior center (May 10, 2013). Twenty-six  low-income seniors received wills, powers of attorney for finances, and health care powers of attorney through the pro bono efforts of these attorneys. 
Pro Bono Service Marshall attorney Paula Aylward is familiar with Michigan's suggested voluntary pro bono standard of 30 hours per year. But she never lets it stop her.
Community Service The State Bar Appellate Practice Section's "Good Deeds Committee" recently hooked up with the Ronald McDonald House, and everybody was 'lovin it. APS volunteers provided families staying at the Ronald McDonald House with a full banquet meal that included rotisserie chicken, roasted vegetables, cheesy potatoes, antipasto salad, burritos and rice.
Pro Bono Service Working for a legal aid organization is a challenging endeavor. Working for legal aid as needs rise and funding dries up is next to impossible. But the folks at Legal Aid of Western Michigan (LAWM) aren't letting their troubles get them down. They're making lemonade—literally and figuratively.
Community Service Irish lawyers are faster and better at doing charitywork than lawyers of any other descent. At least that's what Charles Rutherford, past president of the Incorporated Society of Irish American Lawyers (the Irish Lawyers Association), suggested during the association's biannual trip to Focus Hope, where dozens of volunteers packed 3,145 boxes of nonperishable food items for homebound seniors—a new one-day record. In addition to setting the record, the group, which started the tradition in November 2001, also packed its 50,000th box, an unprecedented accomplishment according to Focus Hope's volunteer coordinator.
Pro Bono Service When attorney Jane Regan heard about the services provided to battered immigrants and unaccompanied alien minors by the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), she knew she had found her calling. Despite a busy work schedule as in-house counsel with Ford Motor Company, she immediately contacted MIRC and offered to help. And in 2011 alone, Regan donated 100 hours of pro bono assistance, handling six cases for MIRC.
Pro Bono Service Since its inception in the Fall of 2010, the Michigan State University College of Law's Immigration Law Clinic has helped scores of immigrants from 47 different countries, including Kenya, Chad, Poland, Gabon, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The free clinic, which is currently handling 90 open cases, helps victims of domestic violence, abandoned children, asylum seekers, refugees, legal permanent residents facing disability-based barriers to naturalization, and other immigrants who need help but cannot afford it.
Pro Bono Service Thomas M. Cooley Law School's curriculum committee recently approved plans to start an immigrant rights and civil advocacy clinic on its Ann Arbor campus. The pro bono clinic opened in January of 2012 and is the 8th clinic in which students can participate. The new immigrant rights clinic is the first in-house clinic at Cooley's Ann Arbor location.
Community Service Students from Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Ann Arbor campus teamed up on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 with students from the University of Michigan Law School to distribute Thanksgiving meals to families in need.
Community Service Professor Stevie Swanson of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Auburn Hills campus helped organize a clothing drive, with the help of Pi Alpha Delta Society, which benefitted Interim House. Interim House is part of Metropolitan Detroit's YWCA which offers services for battered women and children.
Community Service The Downriver Salvation Army Angel Tree program helps give children gifts to open on Christmas day. Some businesses in the area set up Christmas trees with angels on them, each with a gift listed for a needy child, allowing people to take an angel and fulfill a child's gift request. This year, the Downriver Bar Association (DBA) chose to participate, looking for a way to give back.
Pro Bono Service Students from the MSU College of Law presented a Housing Law clinic in Lansing. Under the supervision of Professor Elan S. Nichols, students presented a "Veterans Housing Rights" seminar for the veteran's support group at the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.
Pro Bono Service The Saginaw County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee and Legal Services of Eastern Michigan have honored James E. O'Neil III with their Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award for 2011. Pro Bono Attorney of the Year is an award that recognizes an outstanding attorney for their efforts promoting and fostering pro bono legal services; services to low income individuals or organizations that serve low income people.
Pro Bono Service Common Ground offers weekly legal clinics that are free and open to the public. The clinics serve a vast majority of clients who have a household income of less than $10,000 a year. Common Ground is a non-profit organization located in Bloomfield Hills that helps people in crisis.
Pro Bono Service On Tuesday, October 4, 2011, over 100 Cooley Law School students, staff, and faculty showed their commitment to their profession and pro bono service by signing the pro bono pledge. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh administered the pledge to those who plan on making pro bono legal service a continuing part of their professional lives. The inaugural pledge event was a highlight of pro bono month at Cooley.
Community Service On September 19, 2011, fifteen students from Cooley Law School's Ann Arbor campus joined local attorneys and spent the day teaching middle school students in the community about the U.S. Constitution. Five Ann Arbor area schools participated: Clague, Forsythe, Scarlett, Slausson, and Tappan.
Pro Bono Service The State Bar launched its first ever Pro Bono Fair at the Auburn Hills Cooley Law School campus. The State Bar also sponsored Pro Bono Fairs in many other areas of the state to coincide with October is Pro Bono Month. The events were sponsored by Dickinson Wright, Dykema, Foster Swift, and Legal Aid of Western Michigan.
Community Service On May 16, the putting green was perfectly trimmed and the Swing to Cure Diabetes Golf Outing was underway. This year's event raised over $45,000 for Type 1 diabetes research. Attorneys Richard and Christine Hewlett put a huge amount of effort into organizing the outing and all of their hard work paid off.
Community Service The Jewish Law Student Association at Thomas M. Cooley Law School (Auburn Hills campus) participated in a community service outreach program in June by collecting food for the Yad Ezra Food Bank.
Community Service For 24 years, Goodwin & Scieszka has been hosting a free legal aid clinic called, "Law Day". On Saturday June 11, the 24th annual Law Day was held offering free legal advice for all areas of the law. Children were also fitted for free bike helmets.
Community Service The Honorable Brian A. Oakley, a 34th District Court judge, traveled twice to Joplin, Missouri where he helped national non-profit Poured Out Inc. clean up after a devastating tornado. Judge Oakley was part of a group that went to Joplin to aid in the disaster efforts.
Pro Bono Service In 15 years Elizabeth Joy Fossel has worked on 15 pro bono cases, donating a total of 1,520 hours of her time, worth just under $400,000. When presented with people in need by Legal Aid of Western Michigan via her firm's pro bono administrator, she never says no.
Pro Bono Service The Oakland County Bar Association runs two successful pro bono programs hosted by OCBA's Public Service Committee—People's Law College and the 8th Annual Seniors' Law Day.
Community Service Improving Detroit through Entrepreneur Advancement awarded three different scholarships to young entrepreneurs who created winning business plans.
Community Service This year's Fourth Annual Culinary Challenge, hosted at the home of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly, raised over $16,000 to benefit women's charities.
Pro Bono Service Niesa Trent Fagan and Celeste Pelzer from Bodman PLC assisted a woman with an expungement of her criminal record.
Pro Bono Service The State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative presented its third annual spring workshop—Nurturing Pro Bono: An Interactive Workshop for Michigan's Pro Bono Coordinators.
Community Service The Oakland County Bar Association's New Lawyers Committee helps a different charitable organization every year. This year, Forgotten Harvest was selected, they provide food to those in need in the Metro Detroit area.
Community Service Law school is not filled with much glitz and glamour but Professor Stevie Swanson is doing her part, with the help of her law students, to provide girls with prom dresses for their big day.
Community Service Jennifer Bylsma, Cooley law student and U.S. Army reservist was honored last month for her outstanding service in donating bone marrow to a 68-year-old man.
Pro Bono Service Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the United States Bankruptcy Court Eastern District, and the Federal Bar Ass'n Eastern District sponsored a series of bankruptcy seminars in Detroit.
Pro Bono Service The Oakland County Bar Ass'n and the Legal Aid and Defender Ass'n have collaborated to offer free legal assistance for civil law cases to pro se litigants through the Free Legal Information Help Desk..
Pro Bono Service As part of a class project at Cooley Law School, third-year student Shane Goodale proposed the idea of having law students help the homeless.
Access to Justice Fund State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners and the Young Lawyers Section gathered at the Royal Scot Golf and Bowl for their fifth annual fundraiser for the Access to Justice Fund.
Pro Bono Service Three attorneys from the Zivian family helped change one young mother's life through their Pro Bono contributions.
Community Service Conybeare Law offices in St. Joseph took on a large project to aid senior citizens in the community by providing air conditioners to senior citizens.
Pro Bono Service During its Pro Bono Awards Ceremony, Legal Aid and Defender Ass'n, Inc., honored a corporation legal staff, a law firm, and a number of individual attorneys for counseling and representing hundreds of its civil legal clients.
Community Service Lawyers in Washtenaw County presented materials and exercises to all 6th and 7th graders in the Ann Arbor Public School District regarding the 6th Amendment issues of voire dire and the Confrontation Clause.
Access to Justice Fund and Community Service The Representative Assembly hosted a food drive to benefit the Greater Lansing Area Food Bank and a fundraiser for the Access to Justice Fund to help support civil legal aid for low-income people.
Community Service Rather than exchanging gifts this past holiday season, employees of Wachler & Associates, PC, chose to participate in the Adopt-A-Family program coordinated by the Social Work Department of the Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Community Service Members of the Lansing Black Lawyers Ass'n gathered at the Black Child and Family Institute in Lansing, Michigan in recognition of the United Way Day of Caring.
Community Service Kelly K. Burris, a patent attorney and shareholder at Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione in Ann Arbor, often flies her 1962 Beechcraft Debonaire to meetings with clients across the country. She also volunteers her talents as a pilot to benefit those less fortunate.
Community Service Twenty-seven Washtenaw County attorneys vacated courtrooms and entered classrooms to teach well over 1,000 students a few things about the 6th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Community Service Thomas M. Cooley Law School student Moraima Ruiz, Law Professor Derek Witte, and Grand Rapids Campus Dean Nelson Miller, assist a client at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Community Service Lawyers at Foster Swift Collins & Smith recently managed to do two good deeds at once: Supporting 4-H community youth activities and donating 700 pounds of meat to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
Community Service The attorneys and staff at the Okemos firm of Foster Zack Little Pasteur & Manning, PC, took a small break from the "legal world" for one day in order to help out Habitat for Humanity.
Community Service Assistant Professor Dustin Foster and Staff Attorney Lindsay Citrin of the Estate Planning Clinic deliver meals.
Pro Bono Service Miller Canfield Associate Marcy Rosen and Cooley Auburn Hills Dean John Nussbaumer review pro bono assignments at the Federal Courthouse in Detroit.
Community Service Attorney Tammy Asher Coaches Odyssey of the Mind World Finals Team.
Community Service Attorney Cynthia M. Filipovich is one of more than 200 "Clark Hill Cares" volunteers working at various Feeding America food banks.
Community Service Lawyers, Michigan National Guard JAG officers, and a Cooley Law professor met individually with reservists who needed documents prepared before they deployed.
Pro Bono and Community Service Attorneys Scott Goodwin and James Scieszka organize a free legal clinic.
Pro Bono Service Attorney G. Christopher Bernard helps veteran get waiver of debt and continued receipt of VA benefit checks.
Pro Bono Service Pro Bono attorney John Kuriakuz helps get an estate probated and the client receive title to the home.
Pro Bono Service Attorney Richard Bernstein fights for the rights of the disabled.
Community Service Attorney Michael Lavoie mentors Pontiac Gettysburg Group.
Pro Bono and Community Service Frank, Haron, Weiner & Navarro PLC provides legal consultations to resigned, laid-off, terminated, and bought-out Michigan employees.

Do you have a Pro Bono or Community Service story to share?
it today to be included in our "A Lawyer Helps" story bank.

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