The 1960s were a time of political and social unrest, when people who had been marginalized and discriminated against demanded recognition and equality. So what better decade could there be for the birth of an organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to justice regardless of income?
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services has worked toward this goal since 1964 and will continue to do so for decades more. Of course, any organization with such an ambitious mission needs strong support from its community. Since its inception, CVLS has been blessed to have support from many sources. One, in particular, has been integral to CVLS's efforts: Schiff Hardin, LLP.
The Chicago law firm, Schiff Hardin, LLP, which began in 1864 as Hitchcock & Dupee, played a crucial role in Chicago’s early development. It helped to establish the Chicago Transit Authority and organized and advanced influential Chicago companies such as Amsted Industries and The Northern Trust Company. Both remain Schiff Hardin clients to this day. In addition to its gold-standard work for Chicago businesses, Schiff Hardin has provided and supported premium quality pro bono legal services to the underprivileged and unrepresented. From political asylum cases to fighting for debtors' rights to advocating for the homeless, the firm has always been there to help people in need.
Schiff Hardin's consistent willingness to help has been its greatest asset to CVLS. In 1979, Schiff Hardin set another gold standard, this time for pro bono when it became the first organization to adopt a CVLS neighborhood clinic. Since then, the Schiff clinic, located in East Rogers Park, has been run and fully staffed by firm attorneys and paralegals.
Twenty-five years later, CVLS honored Schiff Hardin with its Atticus Finch Award in recognition of the firm’s support for CVLS and pro bono legal services. The award, which has only been given six times in CVLS's 50 years, honors entities and persons who exemplify the legal profession's highest ideals. Schiff Hardin is the only law firm to ever receive it. That the award was well deserved is beyond question. This year alone, ten partners and 30 associates from Schiff Hardin have volunteered their time to help CVLS.
As a recent example of Schiff’s excellent efforts, associates Huda Krad Baylin and Emily Gesmundo recently completed a complicated divorce for a client they met at the clinic. Together, Huda and Emily represented Charlotte, a woman who had been seeking a divorce from her husband for nearly a decade. The difficulty was that Charlotte lived in Chicago, while her husband lived in Belize. Despite this grand divide, after putting in 26 hours of work, Huda and Emily were successful in getting Charlotte a divorce. While their dedication and determination is amazing in itself, what’s even more compelling is the special relationship that Huda says she and Emily were able to forge with their client. Emily agreed, saying that working through Schiff’s clinic really gives her the feeling that she makes a difference in people’s lives.
This devotion from Schiff Hardin and its attorneys is the driving force behind the firm’s partnership with CVLS. CVLS is deeply grateful to Schiff Hardin for its immense support. No matter what comes, with CVLS and Schiff Hardin side by side, the future is bright!