Vorys has a distinguished tradition of public service. For decades, we have actively provided pro bono legal services and we have received national recognition for our exceptional efforts in that area. In addition, our lawyers have served in a broad array of leadership positions in national, state, and local bar associations, foundations, and other organizations focused on the practice of law. Finally, community service also is an important part of our firm culture. In each of our offices, our lawyers are active in many different charitable, cultural, and political activities and are working to improve the quality of their communities.
Since its inception, our firm has been dedicated to providing pro bono legal services in our communities. We believe that pro bono work is a fundamental part of being a lawyer. Our firm therefore strives to foster an environment that encourages all of our attorneys – from the newest associate to the most senior partner – to provide legal services to individuals and organizations that otherwise may lack access to the legal system.
Our attorneys serve on the governing boards of many legal services groups and other organizations dedicated to the cause of increasing access to legal services and the justice system. We also work with such organizations in developing new pro bono initiatives. For example, our firm recently partnered with the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. We also support an Equal Justice Works Fellow who works with Lone Star Legal Aid in Houston, Texas.
Pro bono work helps our attorneys to develop as lawyers and as contributing members of our communities. Assisting poor and disadvantaged individuals, charitable organizations, and legal aid societies in addressing and resolving legal problems can be a deeply rewarding experience. In addition, pro bono legal work often provides excellent opportunities for our associates to sample new areas of practice and to gain significant practical experience at early stages in their careers.
We encourage our attorneys to identify and pursue pro bono activities that are of particular interest to them. These are just a few of the pro bono matters our lawyers have recently worked on:
Providing will and power of attorney documentation for indigent elderly individuals in our communities.
- Providing legal counsel in the formation of not-for-profit corporations and tax-exempt status for organizations helping to provide legal services to those who otherwise would not have access to the justice system.
Providing legal assistance for indigent tenants in eviction litigation.
- Aiding inner city business owners to obtain childcare benefits and other publicly-available funding.
Helping veterans navigate the administrative benefits process.
- Litigating under the Hague Convention for the return of internationally missing children.
- Representing indigent defendants in criminal and habeas corpus cases, including death penalty cases, in the federal district courts and courts of appeals.
- Providing legal counsel to various community-based non-profit organizations.
- Providing assistance to low-income taxpayers.
Representing the Coalition for Education Reform as legal counsel in a national civil rights pro bono case that was filed in Federal Court in Wilmington in September 2016 alleging race and disabilities discrimination, among other claims. In short, the suit (Coalition for Education Reform, et al v. Indian River School District) seeks to close the George Washington Carver Academy, a public school located in Frankfort, Delaware, which the lawsuit alleges has been operated by the Indian River School District as a segregated dumping ground for African American males ages 3 to 18. The claims seek to allow the African American plaintiffs to graduate from high school and go on to college or secure meaningful employment. On both counts, significant progress has been made. The case continues to be actively litigated by a Vorys team of Partners Tom McDonald and Martha Brewer Motley, and Associate Tom Whaling.
Service to the Bar
Vorys has a rich tradition of attorney service in local, state, and national bar associations and other organizations that are the voice of the legal community. Our lawyers have served as presidents of the Ohio State Bar Association and the Columbus Bar Association, as chairs of American Bar Association practice committees, as members of the committees charged with evaluating nominees for federal judgeships, and as members of the Board that assesses the character and fitness of applicants for admission to the Ohio bar.
We are proud that both the first African-American president and the first female president of the Columbus Bar Association are partners in our firm. Our attorneys also were instrumental in the creation, in 2006, of the Asian-Pacific American Bar Association of Central Ohio, an affiliate of the National Asian-Pacific American Bar Association.
We encourage our lawyers to participate in bar association activities because we believe that such activities are important to our profession and to the communities in which we practice. In addition, we believe that such activities allow our attorneys to exercise their leadership skills, to enhance the depth and breadth of their substantive knowledge of their practice areas, and to develop important professional relationships with fellow lawyers across the country.
In all of our offices, our attorneys are actively involved in local, state, and national bar association activities. Many of our lawyers serve on state and federal Judicial Conferences and on various court advisory committees and have served in the ABA House of Delegates. By way of example, Vorys lawyers recently have been elected or appointed to serve in the following positions:
- Member of the American Bar Association's Board of Governors
- President of the National Conference of Bar Presidents Executive Council
- Chair of the Antitrust Section of the American Bar Association
- Chair-Elect, Real Property Division of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section of the American Bar Association
- President of the Board of Directors for the American Bankruptcy Institute
- Future president of the National Association for Defense Trial Attorneys
- Member of the Executive Council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents
- Chair of the Taxation Committee of the Ohio State Bar Association
- Chair of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline
- Chair of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness
- Member of the Board of Directors for the Northern District of Ohio Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
- President of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Our firm is grateful for the support it has received from the communities where we practice law. At each of our offices, our lawyers, paralegals, and staff members are deeply involved with cultural organizations, charitable groups, and other programs that seek to improve the quality of life in those communities.
Our attorneys are free to identify community or charitable organizations they wish to support and to provide the kind of support that is best suited to their personal interests and circumstances. Some of our attorneys serve on boards for organizations such as the YWCA Columbus, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, The Ohio State University Alumni Association, the United Way of Central Ohio, the North Market Development Authority, Habitat for Humanity Mid-Ohio, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association, the Akron Art Museum, the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Blood Services Region, the Houston Grand Opera, the Greater Houston Area Red Cross and local chapters of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society, among many others. Other attorneys volunteer for Victory Gallop, a therapeutic horseback riding program for disabled and challenged children, teach in the Cleveland Bar Association’s “3Rs” program, in which lawyers instruct inner-city students on concepts of constitutional law, support the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a community-based health organization providing support for individuals with AIDS and HIV, and engage in countless other hands-on activities for charitable organizations.
In some instances, teams of our attorneys have worked together to help local organizations. For example, our attorneys donated countless hours of legal services to help the Contemporary American Theatre Company in Columbus develop a new organizational structure that allowed that organization to reduce its operating budget and overcome financial problems that threatened its continued existence.
Our firm also engages in office-wide charitable activities. Each year the Cleveland office adopts several charities that are supported through fundraising events, such as chili cook-offs, bake sales, raffles, and dress-down days. The Columbus office conducts luncheons and raffles to support Operation Feed, a community-wide food drive coordinated by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and the United Way of Central Ohio. Additionally, the Washington office provides support to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers.
Our firm has also received the Corporate Caring Award from Business First, a central Ohio business newspaper.