NYSBA, Iowa Legal Groups Receive Prestigious Harrison Tweed Award From American Bar Association
For its extensive pro bono efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, the New York State Bar Association will be honored today with the American Bar Association’s prestigious Harrison Tweed Award.
The award, which is given by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, celebrates the extraordinary achievement of a state or local bar association that develops programs to increase access to civil legal services for the indigent. NYSBA shared the award with the Iowa State Bar Association, Iowa Legal Aid and the Polk County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Project. The Iowa associations were honored for developing a free COVID-19 Legal Advice Hotline.
NYSBA was nominated for the award by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and legal luminaries such as New York State Attorney General Letitia James, former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and James Sandman, former president of the Legal Services Corporation, sent letters of support. The initiative was launched by former NYSBA President Henry M. Greenberg, expanded by Immediate Past President Scott M. Karson and has continued to serve clients during the presidency of T. Andrew Brown.
“The need for pro bono assistance was greater than ever in 2020 due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic including record unemployment,” said Brown. “When times are tough, the heart and soul of the legal profession is at its strongest. Our volunteer attorneys did not shy away from distress, instead they rolled up their sleeves and got to work helping New Yorkers who were impacted most by the pandemic. I am greatly honored to accept this award on behalf of the association.”
“It was vital that NYSBA do everything in its power to get legal assistance to those New Yorkers who suffered the most during the pandemic,” Greenberg said. “I am grateful to all the attorneys who gave selflessly of their time, as well as the legal tech companies, Clio and Paladin, and NYSBA’s extraordinary staff. They were the ones that connected our attorneys to those who desperately needed their help.”
“It is the highest calling of our profession to take on pro bono work and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to justice,” said Karson. “Whether it was assisting residents with housing problems, uncontested estate claims or unemployment issues, it was an incredibly rewarding feeling during my presidency to see hundreds of volunteer attorneys answer the call when it was needed most. I feel honored and privileged to share in the acceptance of this prestigious award.”
Among NYSBA’s ongoing efforts that led to being honored with this award are:
- COVID-19 Pro Bono Network: In partnership with the New York State Unified Court System, the association recruited and trained over 1,250 volunteers to assist with landlord/tenant matters, representation of domestic violence victims, and drafting life planning documents – and referred these trained volunteers to statewide legal service providers where they could be of immediate assistance.
- Unemployment Insurance Initiative: Connects trained volunteer attorneys with New Yorkers who need legal assistance on COVID-19-related unemployment insurance claims. Many initial clients needed help navigating the overwhelmed unemployment insurance application system while others needed assistance in gathering documents and contacting the state Department of Labor. The program trained 1,332 volunteer lawyers who have helped over 2,600 clients.
- Surrogate’s Court Small Estates Administration Initiative: Connects volunteer attorneys with families of New Yorkers who passed away from COVID-19. The program assists with small uncontested estate administration only (less than $50,000 in assets). To date, the program has trained 749 lawyers and has helped 109 clients.
This is not the first time that NYSBA has been honored with the prestigious Harrison Tweed Award. NYSBA previously received the award in 1996 and 2005 for its support of funding for civil legal services as well as programs to increase access to legal services for the poor, including adults and children in Family Court and indigent criminal defendants.
NYSBA would like to thank tech companies Clio and Paladin for developing an integrated digital platform to support the volunteer attorneys. Clio developed the client intake and referral software and provided access to Clio Manage to handle cases, while Paladin developed the volunteer recruitment platform. NYSBA handled all training of volunteers.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Susan DeSantis