Guest Blog: Deere Celebrates Giving Back to the Community

The Deere & Company** Global Law Services Group held its bi-annual Pro Bono and Community Service Celebration at Deere & Company’s Worldwide Headquarters in Moline, Ill., on Oct. 19.  Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride was the event’s keynote speaker.  The celebration’s theme, “Giving Back to the Community,” reflected the Global Law Services Group’s dedication to serving those in need of legal services and, more generally, Deere’s commitment to an environment in which employees are encouraged to engage in volunteerism for the betterment of their communities.

In his keynote address, Chief Justice Kilbride encouraged participation in pro bono services, quoting former Illinois Chief Justice Moses Harrison, who said:

“Our American society is premised on the promise that each of us is equal under the law. Equality is impossible if people do not have a voice to speak for them in the courts of law . . . Each of us in this room can bring that goal closer to reality.  It is our moral and professional duty. As lawyers, we have no higher calling.”

The Deere Pro Bono program officially began in 2002, and in 2007 Deere celebrated the program’s fifth anniversary with its first Pro Bono Celebration.  At that time, the Deere Pro Bono Committee, championed by Deere Senior Vice President & General Counsel Jim Jenkins, established two awards to recognize members of the Global Law Services Group who demonstrate excellence in pro bono services and dispute resolution.  The Deere Pro Bono Committee hosts the Celebration bi-annually, making this the third Pro Bono Celebration.

The Excellence in Pro Bono Services Award celebrates someone who has shown outstanding dedication and commitment in providing pro bono legal services and has inspired others to fully participate in the Pro Bono Program.  Jodi Fisk, Senior Counsel was selected as this year’s Excellence in Pro Bono Services Award recipient for her long term commitment and personal devotion to pro bono activities, and her leadership in facilitating pro bono opportunities for others.

The Steven R. Frankel Peacemaker Award for Excellence in Dispute Resolution honors the memory of Steve Frankel, a Deere attorney who passed away in 2006 after battling cancer.  Steve, an expert in the field of mediation and a steadfast pro bono advocate, established Deere’s Pro Bono Mediation partnerships with the City of Davenport Civil Rights Commission and City of Bettendorf Human Rights Commission whereby Deere attorneys and non-lawyer staff members receive mediation training and volunteer as mediators for these civil rights agencies.  This year’s award winner, Keith Steenlage, Assistant General Counsel, demonstrates excellence in dispute resolution through his mediation work, especially as a regular and valued mediator for civil rights cases.

In addition to recognizing these and other Deere Pro Bono Program participants, Deere recognized its pro bono partner organizations, including the Davenport Civil Rights Commission and Bettendorf Human Rights Commission (pro bono mediation services), The Iowa CASA Program, HELP Legal Assistance and Prairie State Legal Services (legal aid organizations), Youth Service Bureau of Rock Island County (youth peer justice program) and United Way. Deere also recognized its law firm partners at the celebration, including the Davenport, Iowa law firm Lane & Waterman LLP (Deere’s pro bono partner since 2008), and DLA Piper LLP* and Schiff Hardin LLP*, both of which recently became pro bono partners with Deere.

Many thanks to Jodi Fisk, Lisa McCraw, and Julie Olszewski at Deere & Company for their contribution to this blog.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denotes Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM