Attorney Mary L. Benedict, 2011 Mike Barnes Award Recipient
Mary L. Benedict, a solo practitioner in Grand Rapids, who has volunteered more than 1500 hours of her time in more than 50 cases since 1993 through Legal Aid's Pro Bono Program was the honored guest at the annual event at the BOB on Thursday, October 27.
The Mike Barnes award, created in honor of Mike Barnes--a former Board President at Legal Aid of Western Michigan and partner at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge who had an extraordinary commitment to providing legal help to those in need during his lifetime--is presented annually to a lawyer whose contribution of time representing the low income clients of Legal Aid continues that spirit. The annual event is co-hosted by the Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge firm.
According to Pro Bono Program director Paul Abrahamsen, the choice of Mary L. Benedict was "unanimous" in light of the amount of work she has done over the years. Ms. Benedict signed on as a volunteer in 1993 and over the years has handled more than 55 cases and contributed more than 700 hours of time. More than 100 of her colleagues, family and friends were there to celebrate and testify to her commitment--especially to working with families not only as an advocate but also as a mediator and spokesman.
LAWM Executive Director Mike Chielens and LAWM attorney Cavan J. Berry with honoree Mary L. Benedict and Paul Jensen, past award winner who served as master of ceremonies at the event.
LAWM attorney Cavan J. Berry spoke to the value of her many hours of assisting in cases handled by LAWM staff attorneys by volunteering her time as a court appointed “guardian ad litem” for the children in difficult custody cases in addition to the work done through the pro bono program. He cited her work in two of his most challenging custody cases by helping to reach a settlement that protected the best interests of the children, “The best thing I can say about Mary is that she “gets it”. She understands our clients. She doesn’t hold it against them that they are poor. She calls it as she sees it.”