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Esther Lardent Named One of the 90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years

The recent 30th Anniversary issue of the Legal Times celebrated the achievements of ninety D.C. lawyers of the past thirty years.  In doing so, Legal Times named the Pro Bono Institute’s President and CEO, Esther Lardent one of the 90 greatest Washington, D.C., lawyers of the last 30 years and a champion in the legal community.  As the article notes, Lardent has pioneered key pro bono practices for large law firms and corporate legal departments and has developed a widely-quoted business case for pro bono.  Furthermore, she has “set an example that other D.C. lawyers should follow.”

Alongside Lardent, many of the Institute’s esteemed friends and colleagues also made the top 90.  Many, like Lardent, were named on the champions list, while others were highlighted as pioneers – those who have made an incredible impact but who are no longer with us, and visionaries – those who have inspired political activism and legal scholarship in the legal community.  Two listed as champions include Judith Areen – Paul Regis Dean Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and member of the Pro Bono Institute Board of Directors, and James Sandman – General Counsel for the District of Columbia Public Schools and long-time member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee.  John Pickering, the esteemed namesake of a Pro Bono Institute award for exemplary law firm pro bono service, was listed as a pioneer.

Esther Lardent
Legal Times
Anna Palmer and Marisa McQuilken
May 19, 2008

During the past several decades, Esther Lardent has reshaped the way Big Law thinks about pro bono work.

“She’s really helped to illustrate how important pro bono is to firms for their client base,” says Susan Hoffman, public service partner at Crowell & Moring.

By encouraging general counsel to consider firms’ pro bono records when hiring outside counsel, Hoffman adds that Lardent “has helped firms to see how important pro bono work is to attorney recruitment, retention, and to overall morale and productivity.”

Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, says she didn’t expect to create a movement, but after the political upheaval in the 1960s, she decided she wanted to make a bigger difference.

She got her start in 1977 setting up a pro bono pilot project for the Boston Bar Association—what is now the Boston Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Program. Lardent moved to Washington in 1985, but the Boston experience stuck with her.

“I became a pro bono junkie,” Lardent says. “I realized the power of it and how important it was never to judge people’s passion for or commitment to social justice by their day job.”

Before joining the Pro Bono Institute, Lardent worked as a consultant for the American Bar Association and several local and state bar associations. She has continued her work at the ABA, now serving in the ABA House of Delegates and as an adviser to the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Project.

In 1994, Lardent helped establish the D.C. Pro Bono Challenge, and seven years ago began work on a second pro bono project in cooperation with the Association of Corporate Counsel. Today, about 200 legal departments participate in the project.