The national law firm of Baker Donelson has been named the Pro Bono Award recipient by the National Homelessness Law Center (the Law Center) in recognition of the Firm's longstanding advocacy for America's homeless population. The award was presented by the Law Center at the 2023 Human Right to Housing Awards, an annual event that recognizes exceptional leadership in the movement to end homelessness. This year's ceremony was held at the Microsoft Policy & Innovation Center in Washington, D.C.
The Pro Bono Award honors one exceptional partner who exemplifies the Law Center's commitment to ending and preventing homelessness. The Law Center recognized Baker Donelson for various contributions, including significant pro bono legal research on the relevant laws and policies that have informed multiple annual iterations of the State Index on Youth Homelessness, which the Law Center publishes with True Colors United. The Firm also provided substantive support in the compilation of case summaries in the Law Center's 2022 Housing Not Handcuffs Litigation Manual Supplement.
"This recognition by the Law Center reaffirms our commitment to pro bono work and our dedication to providing legal assistance to those who may not have access to it otherwise," said Baker Donelson Pro Bono Shareholder Samuel T. Bowman. "This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our attorneys and staff, including Houston shareholder and supervising attorney Kat Statman, who have tirelessly contributed their time and abilities to support those in need of housing assistance. It is a motivating reminder of the importance of our pro bono efforts and the positive impact our legal skills can have on building a more just and equitable society."
Shareholder and Pro Bono Committee Chair Jonathan Cole added, "This award embodies Baker Donelson's historic efforts to bridge the justice gap within our judicial system."
This is the second major national pro bono award Baker Donelson has received this year. In April, the Firm was recognized with the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation's 2023 John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award. This prestigious national award is presented in recognition of outstanding contributions to the quality of justice in legal communities, ensuring that the legal system is open and available to all.
Through its commitment to pro bono representation, Baker Donelson provides legal services to groups and individuals whose resources are limited. The Firm's efforts include work on a wide range of matters, such as advocating for the homeless and organizations that serve the homeless, providing corporate legal services to non-profit organizations, and collaborating with our clients to address particular community needs. Baker Donelson has been instrumental in endeavors such as expanding the Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP) program across the Southeast; creating courts dedicated to handling minor legal matters common among the homeless; assisting persons of limited means with obtaining driver's licenses, an essential need when reintegrating into society; and spearheading and organizing volunteer lawyer programs across Baker Donelson's footprint.
Baker Donelson has helped reshape the legal industry by being one of the first law firms in the Southeast to create a Pro Bono Committee and designate a pro bono shareholder. Additionally, Baker Donelson designates Pro Bono Committee office chairs in most of its 22 offices. These chairs are best suited to address local needs while coordinating with the Firm's pro bono shareholder for global pro bono initiatives. This structure ensures Baker Donelson is well-suited to further its goal of addressing broad spectrum needs across the Firm's markets and beyond.
Founded in 1989, the Law Center is dedicated to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. It is the leading national voice defending the legal rights of housing-displaced individuals and advancing the human right to housing. Collectively, the Law Center's partners contribute over 8,000 hours each year and donate more than $5 million in legal and support services.
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