Baker McKenzie partner, and former Global Chair John Conroy, has received the Pro Bono Institute’s 2021 Chesterfield Smith Lifetime achievement award, for his exemplary contributions to pro bono initiatives throughout his career.

The Chesterfield Smith Award is named after the late Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Holland & Knight, who believed passionately and completely in equal justice for all, while standing firm in his conviction that public service and pro bono are absolutely essential elements in the lives of lawyers and in the work of great law firms. The award is not given annually, rather only when warranted by outstanding achievement.

An accomplished international banking and finance lawyer, John has demonstrated a career-long commitment to initiatives that address critical societal issues, including access to justice, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship. He has served on the boards of numerous civic, educational, and charitable organizations, including Pro Bono Institute’s Board of Directors since 2011. Other organizations for which John has donated his time and talents are the Law Board of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration Business Advisory Board, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Trust Women Advisory Board, the Midtown Educational Foundation’s Board of Directors, and After School Matters® Board of Directors, a nonprofit organization that provides life-changing after-school and summer program opportunities to nearly 19,000 Chicago high school teens each year.

During his tenure as Baker McKenzie’s Global Chair and Head of the firm’s Global Strategic Initiatives, John spearheaded Baker McKenzie’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program, which drives the Firm to be an ethical and responsible business — from fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace to working to reduce carbon emissions, and using the Firm’s skills, creativity and influence to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.  At Baker McKenzie, pro bono is seen as a fundamental responsibility for all of its lawyers and has become an opportunity for the Firm to give back locally, nationally, and internationally.

Accepting this award, John said, “I am sincerely humbled and deeply honored to be the recipient of this award. I am humbled because Chesterfield Smith was a towering figure and influential advocate for pro bono in the legal profession. His profound belief that public service and pro bono are intrinsic responsibilities for all lawyers led him to become such an exemplary law firm leader. I am deeply honored because the Pro Bono Institute has served for many years as the leading pro bono organization under the founding vision of the legendary Esther Lardent, and now under the outstanding leadership of Eve Runyon. “In a remarkably distinctive and impactful way, PBI has teamed with leading law firms to motivate and enable enormous legal talent in these firms to contribute more to pro bono services in pursuit of our shared ambition: equal justice for all.”

As PBI commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge initiative in 2020, it is especially fitting to recognize John for his unwavering commitment in pro bono throughout his career. “He has been a stalwart supporter of PBI and pro bono since the beginning,” noted PBI’s President & CEO Eve Runyon. “John has been a leader in advocating for the enhancement of law firm pro bono and access to justice, pushing us to increase engagement and learning to serve those in our local communities as well as around the globe. Not only has John’s dedication driven the growth of pro bono at his firm, as a member of PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee as well as its Board of Directors, John has helped ensure that pro bono remains a core ethos of law firm practice. I cannot thank him enough for his leadership over the years.”

Angela Vigil, partner and executive director of the Firm’s Pro Bono Practice said, “At Baker McKenzie, our pro bono practice aims to engage teams of problem-solvers to tackle social justice challenges where we can have a significant impact locally, nationally, regionally and globally. John is an excellent example of someone who has lived that mission."
Explore Our Newsroom