Pro Bono Matters
Miller Canfield has long been recognized within our communities for pro bono and community service efforts. We believe that the firm and its attorneys have an ethical responsibility to undertake pro bono engagements. Through an active pro bono committee, the firm seeks to create a culture where pro bono legal services are encouraged and where our professionals have ready opportunities to perform meaningful pro bono legal services.
We encourage all of our attorneys to devote a minimum of 30 hours per year to pro bono legal services as mandated by the State Bar of Michigan or in lieu thereof to support pro bono agencies financially. The firm’s pro bono policy awards billable credit for a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono service annually as an incentive.
Pro bono service includes the representation of low-income persons and organizations that provide assistance to low income persons; representations involving substantial civil rights and public rights issues, and serving nonprofit organizations where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate.
The firm works in partnership with a number of organizations to facilitate pro bono opportunities for its professionals, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Aid and Defender Association, Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, Michigan Community Resources, Project Salute of the University of Detroit Law School, as well as the referral programs of the various courts in which we practice. The firm is also responsive to interests of its attorneys in crafting and approving pro bono opportunities. Each year, we honor our top pro bono attorneys with Pro Bono Champions awards, which are distributed and publicized within the firm.
- Representing indigent people in criminal expungement proceedings to give them a new opportunity in life.
- Staffing divorce clinic for dozens of people seeking a new beginning of their lives.
- Working with Project Salute of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School to help veterans pursue veteran benefits.
- Working with the Accounting Aid Society to help indigent persons file income tax returns to receive the refunds and benefits to which they are entitled.
- Representing federal prisoners in prisoner’s rights cases.
- Representing the Michigan State Bar Access to Justice program with respect to administrative legal issues.
- Winning two major housing discrimination cases on behalf of scores of plaintiffs.
- Assisting a number of community based non profits that serve low income people with corporate, employment, real estate, tax and other organizational issues.
For the past several years, the firm has enabled its summer associates to each have a court appearance on behalf of a pro bono client and participate in pro bono activities in other ways.
In October 2014, the firm was honored with the "2014 Law Firm of the Year Award" given by Michigan Community Resources (MCR) for its leadership and commitment to pro bono work across Michigan and most notably, for its dedication to MCR’s pro bono legal referral program.
Miller Canfield was a charter signatory of the Pro Bono Institute’s Pro Bono Challenge. In 2015, we were also honored by the State Bar of Michigan in its Pro Bono Circle of Excellence for exceeding the State Bar’s voluntary pro bono standard at the Leadership Level, the highest recognition. Miller Canfield has been honored to be designated in the Circle of Excellence each year since the honor was created (more than 20 years).
In 2013, we were named Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year by the Legal Aid and Defender Association.
In cooperation with the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law’s Project Salute Veteran’s Law Clinic, a Miller Canfield team assisted a Vietnam War veteran’s widow obtain VA benefits on account of the veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange. Following his service and herbicide exposure, the U. S. Marine contracted and ultimately died of nasopharyngeal cancer. His widow applied for VA benefits in 2003 and was denied several times.
Our team, led by David King and Thom Linn, agreed to handle the widow’s appeal and was able to locate one of the veteran’s treating physicians, who wrote an opinion connecting the veteran’s cancer to his Agent Orange exposure. The appeal was successful and the client received 13 years of accumulated benefits (about $150,000) and monthly benefits for her life. More>>
Miller Canfield connected with Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. through our partner, Michigan Community Resources, to pursue legal action against the owners of a blighted home that had stood vacant for more than 30 years. In 2014, our lawyers, led by litigator Larry Dudek and Scott Lesser, negotiated a settlement that allowed the property on an otherwise stable and attractive block to be donated to the GRDC for nuisance abatement. The blighted property will be demolished as part of the City of Detroit's anti-blight initiatives.
Villages Community Development Corporation (CDC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accelerating economic development in the Villages of Detroit, a collection of neighborhoods located on Detroit’s near eastside. Through business attraction, community advocacy and organizing, the Villages CDC seeks to strengthen and preserve the social and economic fabric of one of the most diverse and longstanding communities in Detroit.
In collaboration with two other leading nonprofits in the area, The Villages CDC has launched a comprehensive and long-term revitalization effort to combat blight and beautify the community. One part of this effort is the Greenways Project, which will create a network of green thoroughfares through Detroit’s greater east riverfront area. Miller Canfield is assisting The Villages CDC with this exciting project, and one with tremendous potential to boost quality of life. We hope that this project will serve as a model for other communities to increase beauty and improve safety through environmentally beneficial measures.