From the September 2010 CBF Newsletter
Answering the Call, Making a Difference
In addition to contributions of time and money, lawyers also use their networks and influence in the community to advance access to justice. One important way lawyers do this is by serving as ambassadors for this cause in their law firms and in the larger community. Michael Traison and Cara Houck are two lawyers who fully embraced that role when they joined Chuck Douglas and many other colleagues as leaders in the 2010 CBF Investing in Justice Campaign and helped make this year a record-breaking success.
“I want to thank the CBF for providing a vehicle which makes it easy to give back a little to the same community which has provided us with so much."
- Michael Traison, Miller, Canfield Paddock & Stone
The success of the annual CBF Investing in Justice Campaign is due to the dedicated efforts of hundreds of volunteer leaders who help plan and promote the Campaign and lead the effort in their firms and organizations. They help with everything from campaign strategy, marketing and logistics, to the critically important task of personal outreach. One of the keys to the Campaign’s successful growth has been the people who have agreed to take ownership of the initiative at their respective law firms or corporate legal departments. Spearheading these internal efforts, “Vice Chairs” personally commit to engage their colleagues and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to take part in this community-wide effort.
In March, on the eve of this year’s Campaign launch, two such individuals, Michael Traison and Cara Houck, attended the Campaign Kickoff Reception at Sidley Austin as representatives of their firm, Miller, Canfield Paddock & Stone. Cara and Michael came to learn a bit more about the Campaign as a precursor to the firm signing on as a Campaign participant. Once they heard Campaign Chair Chuck Douglas’ inspiring remarks and spoke with several of their peers who had already signed on as volunteers, they realized just how important the Campaign is for our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations and what a difference they could make by getting involved.
At that point, their only concern was how fast they could get started. The following day, Michael and Cara confirmed the firm’s participation as well as their willingness to serve as Vice Chairs. “Although our firm has 400 lawyers in offices in 5 countries, our Chicago office is new and relatively small,” they noted. “Nevertheless, we proudly maintain a high level of commitment to social justice while serving our commercial clientele. It’s our honor to be part of this team now that we are well established here in Chicago, and we are grateful to be able to join with the CBF and the bar in this worthwhile endeavor.”
Behind Michael and Cara’s passionate leadership, it didn’t take long for Miller Canfield to complete a very successful internal effort. In just one week’s time, 100% of their attorneys had made personal contributions to the Campaign. When all was said and done, Michael remarked on his initial experience working on the Campaign, “I want to thank the CBF for providing a vehicle which makes it easy to give back a little to the same community which has provided us with so much."
Over the past four years, Campaign volunteers have helped to raise almost $4 million to provide vital financial support for our community’s pro bono and legal aid system. Their combined efforts, along with the generosity of the thousands of individuals making personal contributions, result in many more low-income and disadvantaged people in our community gaining access to the justice they deserve, not just what they can afford.
One of the projects supported by funds from the Investing in Justice Campaign is the Chicago Medical Legal Partnership for Children (CMLPC). Through this project, two CBF grantees, Health & Disability Advocates and the Legal Assistance Foundation, partner with local hospitals to provide legal aid to low-income child patients and their families. This collaborative program brings together pediatricians, attorneys and social workers to assist low-income families in the medical care setting. The medical team helps families identify the factors in their lives, such as lack of income, poor housing conditions, or inadequate developmental and educational resources that can have a profound impact on child health. Attorneys for the project then meet with families in the patient care setting at several hospitals and health care centers in Chicago to provide legal advice and representation to resolve these issues.
For example, during a recent visit to a partner clinic, Mariah B. confided to CMLPC attorneys that her children’s father, who abused her physically for many years, recently began harassing and threatening her and their children by phone, including threatening to cut the brakes of Mariah’s car. Project attorneys helped Mariah obtain an order of protection and child support and then secured supervision for any visitation the children have with their father.
Like Michael and Cara, many other volunteers from throughout Chicago’s legal community have answered the call to serve as ambassadors and leaders in the Campaign, and in doing so, have affirmatively embraced the ideals of our profession. Each and every volunteer leader helps ensure the success of the CBF’s Investing in Justice Campaign. Working together, we continue to make our community a better place for all of us, especially the people who are in critical need of legal help and have nowhere else to turn.