26th Annual Fall Luncheon

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Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc. (SMRLS) celebrated another year of amazing staff, volunteers and supporters at the 26th Annual Fall Appreciation Luncheon on November 22, 2016.

Guests arrived to the St. Paul InterContinental Hotel shortly after 11:00 a.m. for refreshments and mingling before entering into the ballroom at 11:30 a.m. Guests grabbed their name tags and their last cup of coffee before gradually filtering in, where they were then greeted by Campaign for Legal Aid Chair, Steven J. Kirsch, who graciously welcomed everyone to the morning's Celebration.

Ramsey County Bar Association President, Jerry Miranowski, presented SMRLS with a check for $22,520.23, the proceeds of which were from the 2016 Bench & Bar Benefit Fundraiser. SMRLS CEO Jessie R. Nicholson thanked them for their partnership and generosity.

John Degnan, a member of the Campaign for Legal Aid, Briggs and Morgan attorney, and a long-time supporter of SMRLS, was honored with the prestigious Lifetime Leadership Award. Ray Beckel and Julia Craig were awarded with the 25 Year Staff Award for their incredible longevity of service as SMRLS attorneys. Marina Gillard, Sheryl Riemersma, and Jeannie Williams were also honored for having worked for 25 years in a non-attorney position at SMRLS.

SMRLS Board President, Gail Olson, warmly introduced this year’s Keynote Speaker, Hilarie Bass, Greenberg Traurig’s Co-President and President-Elect of the American Bar Association.

As Hilarie took the stage, she focused on issues of Access to Justice. The American Bar Association (ABA) believes very strongly that every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to low income clients.  In addition, Hilarie stated that Pro Bono work is some of the most important and satisfying work that you can provide as a lawyer by outlining her historic landmark case.

Further, Hilarie addressed the groundbreaking report on the ABA's Commission on the Future of Legal Services and she detailed the difficulties and obstructions that stand in the way of the delivery of legal services. A few of the challenges that the report identified were basic legal knowledge by clients, funding of legal aid providers remains insufficient, and finally the legal profession's resistance to change. Further Hilarie went on to talk about some of the recommendations that the legal profession should support. Hilarie, concluded her remarks by identifying the ways in which technology can play a role in providing access to justice. 

As she brought her speech to a close, she thanked SMRLS and the larger Minnesota legal community for their work in improving access to justice across the state. Hilarie then offered a unique chance for a Q&A from the audience.

SMRLS offered live streaming for the second year in a row, and were able to not only include those who were not able to be present at the meeting, but also take questions from the online audience during Ms. Bass's Q&A session. 

Below are some additional pictures from the event:

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SMRLS would like to thank the following 2016 underwriters for their generous support:

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