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About PBI Founder Esther F. Lardent

Esther F. Lardent
PBI Founder

Long active in legal services and the organized bar, Esther served in the ABA’s House of Delegates and has served as chair or member of numerous ABA committees and task forces, including the Commission on Immigration, Consortium on Legal Services and the Public, Commission on Domestic Violence, Task Force on Terrorism, and various ABA committees on pro bono and legal services. She was a member of the ABA Board of Governors from 1996 to 1999. Esther also served as Co-Chair of DLA Piper (US) LLP’s innovative global pro bono project, New Perimeter, as well as a member of the Global Advisory Committee for Ashoka’s ASE program.

Before founding Pro Bono Institute in 1996, Esther served as an independent legal and policy consultant for the Ford Foundation, the American Bar Association, state and local bar associations, public interest and legal services programs, and other clients. From 1977 to 1985, she was the founder and first director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, one of the nation’s first organized pro bono programs, and, in conjunction with that position, administered a nationwide pro bono technical assistance effort from 1981 to 1985.

Esther received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University, and her J.D. was awarded by the University of Chicago. Esther has received a number of awards in recognition of her public service contributions, including the Exemplar Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the Philadelphia Bar Association Founder Award, the William Reece Smith, Jr. Award from the National Association of Pro Bono Coordinators, the National Association for Public Interest Law’s Public Service Award, and was named one of the 90 greatest lawyers in Washington, D.C. by the Legal Times. In 2013, Esther was named one of The American Lawyer’s top 50 innovators. More recently, she received Merck & Co., Inc.’s Kenneth C. Frazier Equal Justice Award (2014); the Western Center on Law & Poverty’s Earl Johnson Equal Justice Award (2015); and The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2015).

EFL Memorial Program Cover

Click image to the download memorial program.

Esther has been a guest on National Public Radio, CNN, Washington Watch, Nightline, and other network, cable, and local television and radio programs. She has taught at a number of law schools and served as a panelist for numerous organizations and conferences. She has also contributed to and written a number of publications, law articles, and books.

On April 4, 2016, Esther passed away. Esther’s passing was a tremendous loss for the legal profession and the fight for access to justice, but her legacy endures and PBI remains committed to advancing her work through its mission to promote, support, and enhance pro bono efforts around the world.

On June 6, 2016, a memorial service was held for Esther at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. PBI joined Esther’s “family by choice” — the Friends of Esther (FOE as they are called) — and colleagues, who celebrated Esther’s vibrant personality, loving spirit, humor, and tenacity with touching tributes. PBI is moved by the support we have received since Esther’s passing, and we are dedicated to continuing Esther’s legacy for generations to come.