WASHINGTON, DC – The power of pro bono partnerships and advocacy networks to resolve complex community challenges was a main theme among speakers at the Appleseed Foundation’s annual Pillars of Justice Celebration on September 9. The event’s speakers, including Pillar of Justice Award honorees John Johnson of Edgeworth Economics and the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), shared examples of pro bono partnerships that have provided concrete benefits on a broad range of issues, including economic advancement, systemic racism, and the rule of law.
In a moderated discussion at the event, LFAA Co-Presidents Brenna DeVaney and Kiisha Morrow spoke about the need and responsibility for law firms to partner with community organizations to identify and dismantle structural racism in the law. The nearly 300 law firms in the LFAA have all committed to dedicating substantial pro bono resources to help address systemic racism. LFAA member firms are currently partnering with the Appleseed Network on several pro bono projects, including work to address racial inequities in transportation systems, immigration policies, and access to identification.
“LFAA’s goal is simple: racial equity,” Kiisha Morrow said. “We are pursuing that goal by embracing the role that law firms, particularly when acting collectively, can play to advance systemic change and racial equity in the law.”
“Many legal services organizations have spent decades working to dismantle systemic racism,” Brenna DeVaney said. “Law firms have a responsibility to do more in partnership with those organizations. The LFAA formed to facilitate those large-scale, coordinated pro bono projects as vehicles for both immediate and long-term change.”
At the event, John Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder of Edgeworth Economics, described how networked advocacy organizations like Appleseed maximize the impact of pro bono partnerships through positive network effects. Drawing on research at the intersections of economics and network sciences, Dr. Johnson discussed how Appleseed has been able to harness those network effects in tackling issues affecting youth, families, and communities. He also introduced Appleseed’s new Network Opportunity Fund, which was created to enhance the organization’s ability to address systemic problems across the U.S. and Mexico through networked advocacy.
“At the end of the day, networked advocacy like Appleseed’s means more families able to stay together, more children thriving at school, and more communities addressing challenges collaboratively,” John Johnson said. “As a bi-national network, Appleseed is able to work at the roots of these interconnected issues to build dynamic results.”
Appleseed is a network of 16 justice centers across the United States and Mexico working together to reduce poverty, combat discrimination, and advance the rule of law. Appleseed Centers unite research, organizing, policy advocacy, and impact litigation to build systemic solutions for their communities' most pressing problems. The Appleseed Pillar of Justice Award is granted annually to one individual and one organization who have shown an extraordinary commitment to pro bono.
“The pro bono leadership of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance and John Johnson is remarkable,” Mary Morningstar, the Co-Chair of the Appleseed Foundation Board of Directors, said. “These are very difficult times for the communities we serve, but this past year has also shown the inspiring impact that comes from pro bono partnerships. Appleseed is continuing to work tirelessly to ensure justice for all is a reality across the United States and Mexico.”
The 2021 Appleseed Pillars of Justice Celebration was sponsored by:
More information is available at www.AppleseedNetwork.org.