Waller wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award

first_img Waller wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award February 15, 2004 Managing Editor Regular News Waller wins Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Awardcenter_img Mark D. Killian Managing Editor Saying Edward M. Waller, Jr., exemplifies the highest ideals of the profession by his tireless service to others, Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead presented the Tampa lawyer with the 2004 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award.“Mr. Waller has donated hundreds of hours to pro bono representation in 36 years of legal practice,” Chief Justice Anstead said January 29 during a special ceremony of the Supreme Court. “His pro bono clients have included the elderly at risk of losing their homes, an AIDS patient who needed bankruptcy protection because of mounting medical bills, a woman living with disabilities in an effort to save her home for her and her foster children.”The award commemorates Miami civil rights lawyer Tobias Simon, who died in February 1982, and is intended to encourage and recognize extraordinary contributions by Florida lawyers in making legal services available to the indigent and to focus public awareness on the substantial voluntary services rendered by Florida lawyers.Also honored during the ceremony was the Miami firm of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, which received the Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation.A lawyer from each circuit also was recognized with The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards, and Thomas Zehnder of Orlando received the Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award.“I know of no profession that gives more freely and unselfishly of its services than the justice system in our local communities,” said Anstead, noting Florida lawyers provided more than 1.3 million hours of pro bono service a year ago.Bar President Miles McGrane told the honorees that they are the role models for the rest of the state’s lawyers who lead by example, not just words.“You are the best of the best in our legal profession,” McGrane said. “You are truly the champions of justice, and it is a privilege and honor to participate in this ceremony.”McGrane, however, said despite the great efforts of those who provide pro bono service, there is a critical need for more. He called on all lawyers to honor the oath they took when they were admitted to the Bar to never reject “the cause of the defenseless or oppressed.”McGrane noted the legal profession is the only profession that has a rich tradition of fostering and encouraging its members to labor for the good of the public.“Let us today celebrate our responsibilities as officers of this court and promise to work together to create new initiatives to improve the delivery of legal services,” McGrane said.Attorney General Charlie Crist said pro bono work is one of the most important services a lawyer can perform.“And the people we recognize today are the best among us because you serve others for no compensation.. . but for the gratitude of the people you serve who, truly, but for your efforts, may not have the opportunity to have justice done,” Crist said. Waller Anstead said perhaps Waller’s “crowning jewel” is his work with Bay Area Legal Services where, as a member of its board of directors, he was instrumental in obtaining increased funding for the organization, which now exceeds $800,000 a year.Waller said his firm, Fowler White, has always been supportive of his pro bono efforts and that pro bono work just “comes naturally.”“I always believed that if I am going to use my law license to practice law and exercise that privilege, part and parcel to that is representing pro bono clients,” Waller said. “It does not matter if you are a trial lawyer or a real estate lawyer or a corporate lawyer and a tax lawyer. Many times pro bono clients just want someone to sit down and talk to — someone who will listen to their story.”Waller said many times just by virtue of being a lawyer you can help someone in need of assistance.“A poor person with a legal problem is almost always going to be better off with a lawyer than without a lawyer,” Waller said.“Unfortunately, legal services organizations like Bay Area [Legal Services] are all over the state. They just don’t have the resources to help everyone in need. That is why it is so critically important that there be volunteer lawyers, private lawyers, who volunteer to do pro bono work.”Waller said a large part of the pride he feels in being a lawyer comes from his pro bono service and, indirectly, by helping legal services organizations like Bay Area Legal Services.Most of the pro bono cases Waller takes don’t make headlines, but are very satisfying.“Helping these people really makes me feel good at the end of the day,” Waller said.“The message I would like to give to other lawyers — whether they are old lawyers like me or young lawyers just starting out — is to take advantage of the opportunity you have as a lawyer to provide pro bono service to the poor. You will remember the thanks you receive. Doing pro bono work is really gratifying and is its own reward.”While the profession receives a lot of criticism, Waller said, thousands of lawyers every day donate their time to provide legal services to the poor and that he accepts the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award on their behalf.You often hear lawyers nearing the end of their careers lamenting that they wished they had not spent too much time in the office, Waller said, “but I doubt you will ever hear a lawyer say, ‘I wish I had not spent so much time doing pro bono work.’”last_img read more