WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pro Bono Institute (PBI) has selected Executive Vice President and General Counsel William J. Casazza and the Law & Regulatory Affairs Department of Aetna Inc. as the recipient of the 2015 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award for their outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services. The award will be presented at PBI’s Annual Conference Reception at the historic U.S. Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, D.C., on March 5.
Aetna’s legal department has a long and distinguished history of pro bono service that began with the creation of a formal pro bono program 35 years ago and includes becoming a charter signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. Today, under the leadership of Casazza, more than half of the attorneys and a large number of paralegals and administrative assistants participate in pro bono service.
“Aetna’s dedication to sustaining, nourishing, and expanding its pro bono program for more than 30 years is remarkable,” PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent said. “I look forward to their continued success as they work creatively to fulfill their passions while helping others and enhancing their communities.”
Aetna has led several significant, ongoing pro bono efforts that have positively impacted the lives of many clients, as well as the community. Since the establishment of the Connecticut Lawyers’ Legal Aid to the Elderly Program in 1981, Aetna has handled hundreds of cases for elderly clients. In 1994, Aetna’s legal department helped found Lawyers for Children America, a nonprofit organization that promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to representing children. Aetna supports the now-independent organization by covering operating expenses and providing an office space. In addition, Aetna has partnered with Bet Tzedek Legal Services to provide legal support to Holocaust victims eligible for reparations from the German government, both with initial applications and, more recently, appeals.
The pro bono program at Aetna extends to all of its offices with legal staff. For instance, legal department staff located in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, have represented child victims of abuse and neglect and performed in-person client intake sessions several afternoons per month at the local legal aid office. In addition, Blue Bell volunteers have assisted homeless and indigent persons complete and submit applications to obtain official birth certificates, which are needed to obtain a variety of public benefits.
As for Casazza, he not only supports the program, he leads by example. “We are extremely grateful to receive this award from PBI,” Casazza said. “At Aetna, we value the belief that there is something for everyone. We provide our volunteers with an array of pro bono opportunities so that they can feel good about the good work they are doing.”
Founded in 1853, Aetna (NYSE “AET”) is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies. Founded in 1853 in Hartford, CT, Aetna is committed to providing individuals, employers, health care professionals, producers and others with innovative benefits, products and services. Discover more about our organization.
About Pro Bono Institute
Established in 1996, PBI is a nonprofit organization, located in Washington, D.C., with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. PBI identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective.