The Spann Award is given each year to either a local bar association, law firm or a community organization project which has “developed a pro bono program that has satisfied previously unmet needs or extended services to underserved segments of the population.” The award is named for a former president of the American Bar Association and former executive director of the State Bar of Georgia.
The firm is being honored for its pro work for low-income Georgians in the areas of health law and elder law. Burr & Forman volunteer lawyers have provided free legal assistance to clients of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Health Law Partnership and its Seniors Legal Hotline. Much of the pro bono work has involved establishing guardianships in situations where a very ill child has become an adult, prompting the need for another adult or family member caregiver, such as a grandparent, to step in and take responsibility for health care decisions when the parents are not available to do so. Also, some non-parent caregivers need authority to make decisions for minor children.
“Even though I nominated Burr & Forman for the Spann Award, I really did not know the depth of their commitment until I read the supporting letters written by three of their pro bono clients,” says Steve Gottlieb, the executive director of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. “One client, who had already raised four grandchildren, had gotten help from the firm to become the guardian of her great granddaughter; in her letter she said, ‘I am a pro bono petitioner, but I am the most important person ever to these professionals. I feel like a million dollars.'”
Burr & Forman pro bono leaders created an office-wide pro bono approach: The firm’s volunteer lawyers are assisted in their work by other non-lawyer staff at the firm such as paralegals and legal secretaries.
Burr & Forman will be honored at a special pro bono awards reception at the State Bar of Georgia to be held in October in conjunction with the annual American Bar Association National Pro Bono Celebration.