NEWS RELEASE: February 26, 2016
Minneapolis: -- Each year, the Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) recognizes three attorneys who have made a significant contribution through pro bono service. The Pro Bono Publico awards are presented to lawyers in recognition of the time, knowledge, and devotion given in service to the community. Recipients of the 2016 awards are attorneys James Long, Tom Walsh, and Don McNeil. They will be honored at the 36th annual Bar Benefit on Thursday, March 10, at 5 p.m.
Three distinct award categories honor the dedication of volunteer services. The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual for career-long volunteer work on behalf of the community, and the two Excellence Awards recognize current or recent excellence in service by individuals—one from the private sector and one from the public sector.
James Long is this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. Long regularly encourages his colleagues at Briggs & Morgan, and the greater legal community, to join him in his pro bono work. Currently, Long is the coordinator and chair for the firm’s pro bono committee. In just five years, Long has provided 330 legal services through Volunteer Lawyers Network alone, where he works with the Hennepin County Civil Counsel Pro Bono Project and the Benefactors Board.
Long has made great efforts to expand guardianship resources for the Hennepin County Self-Help Center. He has aided Hennepin County by obtaining or training a number of additional Legal Access Point attorneys. Through his firm’s summer associate program, Long seeks to pass on the same zealous passion he has for pro bono work to a new generation of attorneys—something his peers have identified as particularly important to him.
Tom Walsh is the recipient of the Award of Excellence for a Public Attorney. Currently a staff attorney with Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), Walsh has been described as being “uniquely dedicated” to his work.
Walsh’s dedication to providing legal services to indigent clients is felt agency-, community-, and even nationwide. He is responsible for significantly increasing indigent clients’ access to representation in family law and bankruptcy cases, especially within Minnesota. He has created a thriving weekly bankruptcy legal advice clinic, was instrumental in creating the Special Immigration Juvenile Status Third Party Custody Pro Bono Project, and is currently working to develop custodians in CHIPS and TPR cases at the Hennepin County Juvenile Court. Walsh has been actively involved in creating and improving other pro bono programs across the nation. Walsh has been asked to help improve law-related programs across the country, and is often asked to speak at national conferences.
Don McNeil was awarded the Award of Excellence for a Private Attorney for his work for children with disabilities and students who are bullied. McNeil, a partner at Heley, Duncan & Melander, is a passionate advocate for children facing challenges.
McNeil has devoted countless hours to volunteering with the PACER Center, a Minnesota and national nonprofit that expands opportunities for children with disabilities and their families. He has served as the organization’s board president and is currently a member of its board of directors. He has a leadership role in PACER’s Annual Benefit and serves as a member of the corporate sponsor committee.
Beyond just raising awareness of these challenges, McNeil has actively taken on these issues. He has been involved in multiple state taskforces involving mental illness and education.
The HCBA proudly recognizes these members, each highly deserving of honor, as individuals who rise to the call and volunteer their time and knowledge for the benefit of our community. The HCBA also proudly supports legal access for all through a variety of direct service programs, through its support and partnership with Volunteer Lawyers Network, and through significant grants made to legal service providers by the Hennepin County Bar Foundation.