Five lawyers honored with 2023 Pro Bono Awards
Chris Dunn, Emily Elam, Ben Faber, Kathleen Irish, and Dale Roberts were recently honored with The Missouri Bar’s 2023 Pro Bono Awards for their commitment to serving their communities and dedication to ensuring equal access to legal services for all.
Dunn did not take a traditional route to law school. He earned his J.D. at the age of 50 with the goal of using his law license to help those who could not afford legal services. He is an avid volunteer and co-founded the pro-bono Veterans Will Clinic with Hon. Dale Roberts. The clinic has served over 100 veterans since its inception in 2021.
Dunn says he finds the experience incredibly rewarding and hopes other lawyers can find the time to dedicate to pro-bono work as well.
“I think other Missouri lawyers should do what is right for them. I have no idea what life and career challenges they might be facing.” Dunn said. “However, if they have the capacity to do pro bono work, I hope that they will find it as rewarding as I do. It can be a little addictive.”
Emily Elam is the director of strategic priorities for Citigroup, Inc.’s Global Legal Department. In addition to leading a variety of workplace diversity and talent development initiatives, Elam serves on the Citi North America Pro Bono Committee and co-leads the Citi St. Louis Pro Bono Program. She is also a leader in the nationwide Pro Bono Institute In-House Pro Bono Community and has presented several Missouri Bar CLE programs on pro bono topics.
Elam is a firm believer that everyone should use their skills and talents to help others. “The justice gap between those who need legal representation and those who can afford it is huge and it can only be filled by lawyers,” Elam said. “The time commitment does not have to be huge, and there are a variety of ways to get involved, but whatever each of us can do will make a difference to those in need.”
Ben Faber is the staff defense counsel for the Veterans Treatment Court in Boone County. He also assists indigent individuals in the county’s child support and DWI courts.
Faber uses his knowledge from his practice with DWI to help those looking to obtain their driver’s license. He feels that there is a gap in representation in this area and is happy to fill it.
“It's just the right thing to do. I meet great people, and it's good for the community to have individuals licensed, insured, and frequently, using an ignition interlock device when they are operating a motor vehicle.” Faber said. “Having driving privileges helps set my clients up to break free of the criminal justice system.”
Kathleen Irish is an immigration lawyer in Kansas City. She exclusively practices family-based and humanitarian immigration law, helping to build new families and keep existing families together. She is motivated to help children who would not otherwise have access to assistance.
“We all have a set of skills and knowledge that are not available to the general public.” Irish said. “There are many vulnerable populations that need legal assistance but simply lack access to funds to hire counsel and there are not nearly enough nonprofit or charitable organizations to fill the need.”
Hon. Dale Roberts has held numerous public service roles including chief administrative law judge for the Missouri Public Service Commission, state supervisor for the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, and assistant chief counsel for the Special Investigations Section with the Department of Insurance. He also co-founded and serves as co-counsel for the Veterans Free Will Clinic.
Roberts urges other lawyers to spend their time, treasure, and talent helping others, noting that the experience can be freeing “Many of us started our career thinking in terms of billable hours and learned to jealously guard each hour.” Roberts said. “But I’ve found it liberating to spend a little time providing legal service without counting my hours.”