Media Release


PBI Honors Judge Jonathan Lippman with the 2021 Esther F. Lardent Hall of Fame Award

Pro Bono Institute (PBI) will celebrate pro bono champions during its 2021 Annual Conference with a virtual awards presentation on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

During the event, PBI will present the Esther F. Lardent Hall of Fame Award for Excellence in Pro Bono. This award was established in 2016, in memory of Pro Bono Institute’s founding president, and recognizes individuals and organizations that have shown an extraordinary commitment to pro bono and have made a profound impact on advancing the goal of access to justice for all. The inaugural Hall of Fame Award was presented in 2018 to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As part of its 25th anniversary, PBI will present the award this year to the Honorable Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of New York and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, and Of Counsel in the New York office of Latham & Watkins LLP and a member of the firm’s Litigation & Trial Department.

“It is fitting to celebrate the PBI 25th anniversary year by honoring Judge Lippman with the Hall of Fame Award,” said Eve Runyon, PBI President and CEO. “Judge Lippman has provided exemplary leadership in promoting access to justice, and has served the legal profession as a true thought leader and inspiration to the entire pro bono community.”

Judge Lippman has been a vehement pro bono champion his entire career, and as New York’s Chief Judge, he advanced equal access to justice issues in the state and around the country and took the leadership role in identifying permanent funding streams for civil legal services. Chief Judge Lippman made New York the first state in the country to require 50 hours of law-related pro bono work prior to bar admission and established the Pro Bono Scholars and Poverty Justice Solutions Programs to help alleviate the crisis in civil legal services. He strengthened the state’s indigent criminal defense system, addressed the systemic causes of wrongful convictions, created Human Trafficking Courts across New York State, and led efforts to reform New York’s juvenile justice, bail and pre-trial justice systems. Judge Lippman championed the state’s commercial division as a world-class venue for business litigation, reformed the state’s attorney disciplinary system, adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, and succeeded in the creation of a statewide salary commission for judges.

Chief Judge Lippman has served at all levels of the New York State Court system in a career spanning more than four decades, including service as a staff attorney, administrator and judge. From January 1996 to May 2007, he served as the longest-tenured Chief Administrative Judge in state history, playing a central role in many far-reaching reforms of New York’s judiciary and its legal profession. From May 2007 to 2009, Judge Lippman served as the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Department, dramatically reducing the court’s pending backlogs.

In 2008, Judge Lippman received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, presented each year by the nation’s Chief Justice to a state court judge who exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness and professional ethics. Judge Lippman was selected for his “unparalleled ability to promote and achieve reform in the state courts. His leadership in the New York courts contributed to numerous improvements in that state’s justice system and served as an example for courts across the country.” In 2013, the American Lawyer named Chief Judge Lippman one of the Top 50 Innovators in Big Law in the Last 50 Years. A New York Times article in December 2015 stated that Judge Lippman had left an altered legal profession in New York by using “his authority to promote an ideal of lawyering as a public service.” READ MORE ABOUT HIS EXEMPLARY CAREER

Unable to host the PBI 2020 Annual Conference last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, PBI postponed the presentation of last year’s Chesterfield Smith Award and Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award. We are honored to combine the 2020 awards presentation with the 2021 awards on Thursday, March 25.

The Honorable Jonathan Lippman
Read Judge Lippman’s award profile.

Discover Financial Services Legal Organization and
Wanji Walcott, Discover’s Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer,
and General Counsel
Read the Discover award profile.

John J. Conroy, Jr.
Principal, Baker & McKenzie LLP
Read the John Conroy award profile.

American International Group, Inc. and
Lucy Fato, AIG’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Read the AIG award profile.

About Pro Bono Institute
Founded in 1996, Pro Bono Institute (PBI) is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. With an unparalleled depth of knowledge, resources and expertise, PBI is the respected resource for all things pro bono. Through our work with law firms, in-house corporate legal departments, and public interest organizations, PBI is the global thought leader in exploring, identifying, evaluating, catalyzing, and taking to scale new approaches to and resources for the provision of legal services to the poor, disadvantaged, and other individuals or groups unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems.