Media Release


PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent Named One of Top 50 Innovators by The American Lawyer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Esther F. Lardent, President and CEO of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI), was recognized this week by The American Lawyer as one of its top 50 innovators. The distinction recognizes legal leaders who have been trailblazers in thinking outside of the box and making a significant impact over the last five decades.

“I am personally honored and quite humbled to receive this award. I am deeply indebted to the PBI staff, the PBI Board, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee, the Corporate Pro Bono Advisory Board, and the countless volunteers who have all played a major role in helping transform the pro bono culture in law firms and legal departments around the world,” Lardent said.

Lardent is joined in this category by a phenomenal group of innovators including former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman; DLA Piper Global Co-CEO Sir Nigel Knowles; General Mills General Counsel Rick Palmore; Boies, Schiller & Flexner Chairman David Boies; Morrison & Foerster Chair Emeritus Keith Wetmore; Cisco Systems Inc. General Counsel Mark Chandler; Goodwin Procter Chairman Regina Pisa; and K & L Gates Chairman Peter Kalis.

“Esther Lardent is a visionary leader and has made it her life’s mission to reshape the landscape of pro bono,” PBI Board Chairman Jim Jones said. “Her passion for access to justice is contagious, and she has been a catalyst for transforming pro bono culture in major law firms and corporate legal departments.”

Read the article on Lardent, “Raising the Bar,” online at The American Lawyer and read the full list here: The American Lawyer’s Top 50 Innovators.

PBI, established in 1996, grew out of Lardent’s vision to improve access to justice for poor and disadvantaged populations and organizations working for the public good by leveraging the resources and expertise of large law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Washington, D.C., and starting with a staff of two, PBI has grown to 14 full-time employees focusing primarily on law firm, in-house, public interest, and global pro bono.

Lardent received her J.D. from the University of Chicago. Lardent 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, Equal Justice Works’ Public Service Award, and she was named one of the 90 greatest lawyers in Washington, D.C., by the Legal Times.

PBI provides support and resources to major law firms and corporate legal departments in the U.S. and around the world to help start, grow, and enhance their pro bono programs.  PBI also tracks and measures the performance of pro bono programs with its Law Firm and Corporate Pro Bono Challenges, which set aspirational standards for pro bono participation.  Additionally, PBI’s definition of pro bono is considered the industry standard and is used by a host of legal organizations and publications including The American Lawyer. Each year, the Institute leverages more than 5 million hours of pro bono service.

For more information on PBI’s programs and services, visit

About the Pro Bono Institute

Established in 1996, PBI is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to provide pro bono services to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems.  In doing so, PBI identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective. PBI administers a number of projects designed to enhance access to justice, including: the Law Firm Pro Bono Project®, Corporate Pro BonoSM, Second Acts®, Global Pro Bono, and Public Interest Pro Bono.