Three for Three: Attorneys Focused on Pro Bono Work
Cyndie Chang ′03
Partner & Firm Pro Bono Coordinator
Duane Morris LLP
Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Fellow
Why do you think it’s important for people, especially lawyers, to give back to the community?
The law is complex, and there are plenty of people out there who need assistance in navigating it. Many people do not have the luxury to obtain justice due to their limited financial means. The resources that are available to the public are insufficient to satisfy the overwhelming need. As lawyers, we are invaluable resources to the community because of our experience and knowledge of the law. Therefore, it seems reasonable to say that lawyers should help the community with their special skills, to serve the greater good.
How did you decide to go into the law?
My father convinced me that I would be a good lawyer. I was unsure as to what profession would best suit me and where I could make the most impact in the community. I previously considered a career in the field of journalism as I spent a significant amount of time working for different publications, including a local newspaper, national magazine, website and television station. I reported on issues that were of concern and interest to the public. I also enjoyed writing, analysis and problem-solving. My father, knowing my innate sense of advocacy, debated with me the merits of the practice of law as my profession. Luckily, I lost that debate and am now a litigation partner at a major law firm.
In your current role, how are you able to continue your commitment to pro bono work?
My law practice and my general philosophy embrace and encourage pro bono work. I believe that I am a better lawyer because of it. I encourage my professional colleagues inside and outside my firm to do such work. I am a president of a local bar association (the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, one of the oldest and largest Asian-American bar associations in the country) and an executive officer of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. In those leadership positions, I always endeavor to lead by example. I help facilitate and coordinate pro bono efforts and programs within those organizations, including making resources available to those in need on a in-person basis (i.e. local pro bono clinics) and making them readily available online to the public.
Michael Geibelson ′95
Partner & Member of the Executive Board
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, LLP
Loyola Law School Pro Bono Award Recipient - 2005
What was the determining factor in your decision to attend Loyola in pursuit of your law degree?
When I looked at law schools, what I was looking for was an opportunity to have practical experience and training. Looking at the different opportunities, it became clear to me that Loyola not only had a number of a very fine trial lawyers who were graduates but also created the opportunities for its students to go work at the superior court and in the district attorney’s office, which I really thought were going to compel me to go into trial work, which is what I have done.
What role did Loyola play in encouraging your focus in practicing public interest law?
From my early days in the Public Interest Law Foundation and the opportunities to get out in the community, particularly the clinical programs that existed on campus, I knew there was the opportunity to do good along with doing well as a lawyer. Early on in my time as a law student, I was introduced to the Disability Rights Legal Center, which was housed on campus, and I started getting involved in the Cancer Legal Resource Center. A number of people in my family have cancer, so I knew that it was something I wanted to lend my advocacy skills to.
How did you get involved with pro bono work?
Our firm has helped finalize hundreds of adoptions and guardianships by assisting families with the necessary paperwork and appearing at the hearings to adopt and secure the guardianship of their relatives and foster children. In addition, our office’s two pro bono coordinators are graduates of Loyola, Bernice Conn ′92 and Ed Lodgen ′91. With their guiding hand through all of the firm’s activities, there have always been opportunities to find something that is meaningful to you. I have worked with Loyola’s Cancer Legal Resource Center for several years, and that all started with my interest in cancer issues. People would call and seek out advice on how to get what they were entitled to, in terms of insurance or something else, as a result of a cancer diagnosis. It led to me representing people with disabilities who have been discriminated against in one way or another.
Paul Workman ′80
Holland & Knight
Loyola Law School Pro Bono Award Recipient - 2013
What role did Loyola play in encouraging your interest in law practice and public service?
Both at Loyola High School and Loyola Law, I learned the importance of service to others. The Jesuits call it being a “man for others.” Public service in all its forms is a way to serve others. So I guess you could say that the Law School helped to form in me the conviction of how you measure yourself as a person would depend, in part, on the extent of my service to others. Loyola provided me with a first-class legal education. And it exposed to me a great network of lawyers and judges that is still a benefit today.
As a professional, how do you find time to be involved in pro bono work?
Fortunately, my firm, Holland & Knight, is a big proponent of pro bono work. We ask that all of the lawyers in the firm commit at least 20 hours a year to pro bono representation of some sort. Years ago I began working on immigration cases. More recently, through friends at Public Counsel, I’ve taken on more business and consumer litigation matters.
What have been some of the most rewarding pro bono cases you have worked on?
A couple of years ago I handled a very contentious and complicated unlawful detainer dispute for Esperanza Community Housing Corporation. It involved their Mercado La Paloma development on Grand Avenue near the University of Southern California. The case required a lot of time and persistence. We eventually prevailed and the client was very happy with the result. Personally, it was very gratifying.