Exemplary Legal Service to Society – Something to Aim For?

Have you ever wondered if you’ve got what it takes to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Lawyer Magazine?   If not now, perhaps in the years to come, as your profession rolls along and you pick up extracurricular activities and nominations.

As per the site for the “8th Annual The American Lawyer Awards”, to be held in October in New York City, the purpose of the award is to recognize and laud “outstanding achievements in the legal profession”.   For seven years now, ALM has sought out out-of-the-ordinary performances for a peer-reviewed “atta boy” or “atta gal” in three categories.

They are:

1.  Society Service – “[T]hose whose contributions to law and to society have made significant positive impacts.”  (This has been dubbed the “Lifetime Achievement Award”.);

2. Industry Leaders – “The A-List Awards” picks the 20 firms that are head-and-shoulders above the rest when it comes to associate satisfaction, pro bono projects, financial performance and diversity; and

3.  Top Legal Departments – “The Best Legal Department” award is presented to four companies which “Corporate Counsel” magazine has deemed to have the “best in-house counsel” for the past year.

If you think you have similar ambitions, read on and see if the career and avocational path you’re on jibes with those of three lawyers who have won this recognition in the Lifetime Achievement Awards arena.

The JD Journal informs us that the most recent win, the 2010 mention, went to Winston & Strawn LLP’s Senior Chairman and former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson, Jr.    Thompson served as Governor for 14 years…longer than any other chief executive in the state’s history.

Prior to his “public leadership role”, “Big Jim”, as he’s known, worked at the state prosecutor’s office and state attorney general’s office.  He argued more than 200 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court.   Previously, he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

A few years later, he joined Winston & Strawn as partner.  When he left the governmor’s role behind, he rejoined W&S.   Additionally, “Big Jim” has served as Chairman of the Bush Intelligence Oversight Board and later, on one of the president’s National Commissions on the war against terrorist attacks.

As far as Thompson’s avocations are concerned, he is a Chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.

In 2009, George H. Hettrick, who has, per his firm’s site, “devoted his life exclusively to pro bono matters”, was honored with the award.  Currently at Hunton & Williams in Richmond, Hettrick serves as chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Leadership Committee. He is also managing partner of the firm’s pro bono offices in Church Hill (in Richmond and Charlottesville).

Prior to this, he served in the U.S. Army and as Special Counsel to the Governor of Virginia. He’s active in several community-minded organizations, one of which involves helping lawyers break the bondage of alcohol and drug addiction.

In 2005, the ALM honored Arnold & Porter LLP’s Brooksley Born with a Lifetime Achievement Award.   Ms. Born was described by the entity bestowing the award as “one of the leaders of the groundbreaking generation of women lawyers,” noting that “Born made partner while working part-time; led, directed, or founded many of the women’s legal groups in D.C.; and maintained a top derivatives practice.”

Previously, Ms. Born was President of the Stanford Law Review while at Stanford Law. She also served as law clerk to Judge Henry W. Edgerton of the U.S. Court of Appeals and on the Board of Governor’s of the American Bar Association, the AB Foundation, and the District of Columbia Bar.  She is a founder of the ABA Women’s Caucus and has taught “Women and the Law” at several universities.

(Note: A portion of the Awards proceeds goes to Equal Justice Works to sponsor a public interest fellowship.)

Photos of award trophies courtesy of “American Lawyer Awards”.



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