East Alton-based firm receives John C. McAndrews Award
The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) has chosen Simmons Hanly Conroy as the 2008 recipient of the John C. McAndrews Award, honoring members of the profession who have shown extraordinary commitment to providing free legal services to the poor.
Based in East Alton, Ill., with offices in Chicago, Ill. and El Segundo, Calif., Simmons Hanly Conroy has represented more than 100 St. Louis-area homeless military veterans and has been instrumental in securing more than $13 million in compensation for workers who contracted cancer via exposure to thorium while making nuclear weapons in Madison, Ill. The firm has also worked closely with local judges to ensure downstate Illinois soldiers returning from Iraq will have access to much-needed legal services.
“Our pro bono work is especially rewarding on a very personal level,” said John Simmons, Simmons Hanly Conroy founding shareholder and U.S. Army veteran. “To be recognized by the ISBA with the John C. McAndrews Award is such an honor felt at every level of our firm, fueling our passion to help others improve the quality of their lives.”
According to Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Ted Gianaris, while the firm’s 40-plus lawyers are encouraged to devote time to pro bono work, convincing them to do so is not difficult.
“From the newest associates to the senior shareholder, everyone is excited to pitch in and help. It helps us to have personal contacts we wouldn’t otherwise have and it makes us better lawyers,” said Gianaris.
Amy Garrett, with the help of Karoline Carstens, led the formation of Simmons Hanly Conroy’s formal pro bono program, collaborating closely with Chief Judge Ann Callis of the Third Judicial Circuit in Madison County, Ill., and ISBA to identify the community’s most-needed services and train attorneys within Simmons Hanly Conroy and throughout the area on the various specialties.
Much of the firm’s pro bono work has been focused on helping the area’s military veterans via such programs as Stand Down with the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“We typically see small ordinance violations and traffic tickets. Often an unpaid ticket turns into an arrest warrant which makes it impossible for a veteran to get a job. If we can get the ticket and warrant resolved, the Vet may be a step closer to getting a job and back on his feet,” said Gloria Colon, Simmons Hanly Conroy attorney and retired Army Master Sergeant, who works closely with homeless veterans.
For the nuclear workers, attorneys Joe Kusmierczak and Jackalyn Olinger have worked for over three years with a group of grassroots volunteers and representatives from Senator Barack Obama and Congressman John Shimkus’ offices.
“These workers, many of whom were veterans of WWII and Korea, were having a hard time being compensated for their cancer before this group came together,” said Kusmierczak. “Before this group came together, not a single claim had been paid, some had languished for years. Over 100 nuclear workers and their families have now been compensated through this group’s efforts,” he added.