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.
"Her tireless efforts are often unrecognized but her impacts are enormous," said Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan. "Susan brings great advocacy skills, commitment, leadership, and vision to her work to deliver legal services to low-income communities."
There literally isn't a case Kornfield won't take. She's represented a deaf prisoner who wasn't given the same opportunities for early release because the required courses had no accommodations for the hearing impaired. She's handled prisoner cases involving inadequate medical care, prison brutality, and retaliation for filing grievances. She established walk-in legal clinics at Detroit's Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Saints Peter and Paul Warming Center and assisted with Street Outreach Court Detroit, a 36th Judicial District Court program designed to open the doors of justice to homeless people. She's counseled walk-in clients at Law Day clinics on topics ranging from landlord-tenant disputes, divorce, invasion of privacy, and copyright issues.
In addition to her pro-bono work, Kornfield is largely responsible for establishing Bodman's pro bono program, widely regarded as one of the best in the nation. The firm has working relationships with numerous legal assistance organizations and in 2013, Bodman expanded its pro bono intake procedure, allowing it to accept referrals from non-legal aid organizations like neighborhood crisis centers and soup kitchens. Since its inception, Bodman attorneys have helped more than 60 low-income clients with matters including estate planning, expungements, immigration, and veterans benefits.
Story by Mike Eidelebes
Susan M. Kornfield