State Bar of Michigan receives ABA award for COVID-19 response

State Bar of Michigan receives ABA award for COVID-19 response

The American Bar Association is honoring the State Bar of Michigan with national recognition for its quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing pro bono and lawyer referral programs to assist first responders and Michigan residents with legal questions.

The State Bar of Michigan will receive the ABA’s Cindy A. Raisch Award — recognizing the enhancement of public service-oriented lawyer referral and information programs that provide access to justice for moderate-income consumers — during the 2022 National Lawyer Referral Workshop on October 21, 2022.

The State Bar of Michigan created two hotlines in early April 2020 to help Michigan residents after COVID-19 sparked a statewide shutdown in March 2020. The COVID-19 Rapid Response Helpline helped people navigate the confusing implications of the pandemic and shutdown, including questions regarding unemployment, rental housing, and other pressing legal needs in the community. During the height of the pandemic, the helpline received 300 to 400 calls a day and answered thousands of calls with pandemic questions. It also referred over 530 Michigan residents to 120 participating attorneys for additional consultation. The State Bar of Michigan team coordinating the helpline ensured each call was responded to and assigned to an attorney for consultation within four hours.

The Pro Bono Frontline Responders Helpline was created to provide pro bono legal service to Michigan’s essential workers. More than 180 people — many of whom sought help preparing wills in case they lost their lives protecting ours — were helped through the pro bono service of more than 130 attorneys.

“When many programs were halting operations, the Committee was impressed with SBM’s ability to pivot during the COVID pandemic and provide much-needed services in the areas of rapid response and services to first responders,” the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service said when announcing the award. “We thank SBM for their exemplary performance and your dedicated service to the public.”

State Bar of Michigan President James W. Heath credited the staff for recognizing and quickly implementing programs to serve immediate needs during the pandemic.

“We are honored to receive this award,” Heath said. “These programs speak to the deep dedication of staff and the State Bar’s commitment to creating innovative solutions to serve the needs of Michigan attorney and the public — even in the midst of a crisis. Just as importantly, these programs highlight the generosity of Michigan attorneys and their willingness to serve Michigan residents.”

Posted October 20, 2022