Volunteer Spotlight: Michelle Marek Recognized with Federal Court's Excellence In Pro Bono Service Award

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Congratulations to volunteer and CVLS Junior Board member Michelle Marek Figueiredo on winning an Excellence in Pro Bono Service award from the Federal Court! She and her colleagues secured a $7,000 settlement for their client on an excessive force case. Federal Bar Association National President Hon. Gustavo A. Gelphi recognized Michelle and her nine fellow award winners for “contributions in helping people most in need of assistance,” in a ceremony sponsored jointly by the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the FBA. Read more about the award and the other winners HERE.

Michelle, an Associate at Kaye Scholer LLP, began working with CVLS as a law student in 2007 to gain hands-on experience. After taking on adoption and non-contested divorce cases during her externship through DePaul University College of Law, she continued working with CVLS as a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) intern to represent CVLS clients, attend hearings and learn what to expect from the Daley Center’s courtrooms and judges. Michelle joined our Junior Board in 2009 and just completed a year as First Chair.

Michelle says the legal knowledge and experience she gained taking pro bono cases is essential to both her own practice and the legal community in general. “Justice should be available to all, but it is out of reach to many due to high legal fees, lack of knowledge of the law, and an inability to navigate a complex system,” She says. “Doing pro bono work, and sharing my knowledge of the legal system, allows me to help others achieve a sense of justice in their lives.”

In honor of her award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service, we asked Michelle why volunteering is important to her. Her response is one of the many reasons why we’re grateful for the work Michelle does on behalf of CVLS and our clients.

“I volunteer with the hope that any of the volunteer work I do improves a person’s or a community’s current situation. I derive a sense of enjoyment and accomplishment when directly working with individuals and assisting them with their problems. Volunteering in the legal community allows me the opportunity to manage my own cases, get into the court room, and foster different legal skills—all while making a small difference.”

Thank you, Michelle, and congratulations!