ABA's John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award
The American Bar Association has awarded Baker & McKenzie its John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award, recognizing the Firm's extensive pro bono work related to children's rights.
The Wisdom Award is given to select law firms and individuals who have made "outstanding contributions to the quality of justice in their communities and ensuring that the legal system is available and open to all." It is named for The Honorable John Minor Wisdom, a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals who was known for his recognition of the constitutional rights of all citizens.
"Baker & McKenzie is proud to receive this important honor from the American Bar Association, and it speaks to our Firm's steadfast commitment to disrupting barriers to the rule of law, human rights and access to justice in the US and around the world," said Rick Hammett, the Firm's North American Managing Partner. "Over the past year, much of our pro bono work has centered on addressing children's rights issues, and this recognition underscores the importance of serving this vulnerable population."
The Firm's recent pro bono efforts in the area of children's rights include:
- Partnering with Google to host the Children's Rights Summit, a first-of-its-kind gathering focused on legal challenges facing vulnerable youth. Following the success of the Summit in 2014, we again co-hosted the Summit in December 2015, bringing together child advocates, academics, lawyers and in-house counsel to examine barriers to children's rights.
- Leading an effort across the US to create a series of "Homeless Youth Handbooks," which provide practical and accessible legal information for homeless youth across targeted states. The effort began in 2013 in Washington, followed by Illinois and Minnesota, with California, New York and Texas handbooks underway.
- Assisting Florida Children First, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the rights of at-risk children, in ensuring that former foster children can obtain the university tuition and fee exemptions to which they are entitled under Florida law.
- Direct representation of children and youth related to immigration, child welfare, juvenile justice, and many other areas.
"In our pro bono practice, we look at social justice issues through our firm's global mindset. Our decades of deep experience serving clients all around the world enable us to identify and apply the approach that works best for each client in each country," said Michael Wagner, a member of the Firm's Executive Committee and Chair of the Firm's Global Pro Bono & Community Service Committee. "We are especially dedicated to the realization of children's rights as one of our key areas of impact. Whether it's helping homeless youth through the resources provided in the Homeless Youth Handbooks, or direct representation of children and youth in crisis situations, these are important projects that we hope make a meaningful difference in our communities around the world."
Added Angela Vigil, Baker & McKenzie's Director of Pro Bono and Community Service in North America, "We do not do this work for recognition, but receiving the John Minor Wisdom Award is a great honor for our Pro Bono Practice. Our Firm strives every day to make an impact in the communities in which we operate and we are very proud to be recognized by the ABA as advocates for children's rights."
The Firm formally received the award on April 14 at the ABA Litigation Section Annual Conference in Chicago.