Media Release

February 22, 2022

PBI to Honor Equal Justice Works Executive Director David Stern with the 2022 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award

Pro Bono Institute is pleased to honor David Stern, Equal Justice Works Executive Director, with the 2022 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award. PBI will present the award at a special event on Wednesday, March 9, at 6:00 p.m. during the PBI Annual Conference. This award is presented each year to an individual or organization that has demonstrated exceptional commitment to pro bono legal services.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about justice and creating opportunities for law students and lawyers to make an impact in our communities, and our country,” said Stern. “Receiving this award from the Pro Bono Institute is deeply humbling because of our shared commitment and enthusiasm for expanding access to justice for people most in need.”
Stern joined Equal Justice Works, then known as the National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL), in 1992 to establish a postgraduate fellowship program, and in 1995, he was promoted to executive director.
During his tenure as executive director, the organization has grown significantly, partnering with more than 90% of ABA-accredited law schools to advance the Equal Justice Works mission to create pathways for lawyers to engage in public interest law. Under his leadership, Equal Justice Works has facilitated more than 2,500 public interest fellowships, with 85% of Fellows continuing to serve the public following their fellowship. Fellows have engaged countless legal professionals from law firms and in-house legal departments nationwide in pro bono legal service.
“It’s only fitting that PBI honor David in this, his year of retirement,” said Eve Runyon, PBI President and CEO. “We are thrilled to celebrate his many contributions to public interest law and a truly illustrious career.”
PBI’s long-standing relationship with Stern and Equal Justice Works dates back to the organization’s infancy, and includes PBI’s late founder Esther F. Lardent serving on the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors for several years, as did Laurie D. Zelon for whom PBI’s award is named.
Stern has been recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House, as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” by The National Law Journal, and as one of the “Greatest Washington Lawyers in the Past 30 Years” by The Legal Times. In 2006, he was honored by the Mississippi Center for Justice for bringing national attention to the legal needs of survivors of Hurricane Katrina and for creating Equal Justice Works’ Katrina Initiative, which deployed lawyers to the Gulf Coast region to help thousands of people left without homes, jobs, or social services.
Stern has volunteered on voter protection, election integrity, and advises Fellows and other public interest lawyers on pro bono projects.
He is a member of the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of the crisis in civil legal aid nationwide. Stern has served on the boards of the Center for Responsive Politics the Constitutional Accountability Center, Georgetown Day School, and served on the Advisory Boards of the J. Skelly Wright Fellowship Committee at Yale Law School, and the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. He serves on the Advisory Committee for Voices for Civil Justice, a nonpartisan communications hub advancing fairness in America’s legal system.
He received his B.A. from Union College and his J.D. from Georgetown University. Following law school, he clerked for two federal judges in Baltimore and worked for a public interest civil rights law firm before joining Equal Justice Works.
PBI applauds David Stern and Equal Justice Works for their continuing dedication to pro bono and access to justice.

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.
About the Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award
This annual award recognizes an individual or organization’s exceptional commitment to pro bono legal services. PBI named the award as a tribute to the Honorable Laurie D. Zelon, retired associate justice of the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, who was one of the originators of the PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. Justice Zelon served as chair and was a longtime member of the California Access to Justice Commission. She has been active with several statewide judicial committees addressing justice administration issues.