Public Interest Awards: 2011 Award Recipients
The Honorable Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Awards
The Honorable Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Awards recognize recently graduated Chicago-Kent alumni who have demonstrated outstanding public interest leadership and who most reflect “the character, life and work of the Honorable Abraham Lincoln Marovitz.” These endowed awards in memory of Judge Marovitz include monetary stipends to assist the recipients with their educational debt as they work to benefit the public good.
Public Interest Partner Award
Established in 2011, the Public Interest Partner Award recognizes organizations that make outstanding contributions to public interest law and provide opportunities for Chicago-Kent students to gain meaningful experience in public interest practice.
Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award
The Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award was created to recognize a Chicago-Kent alumnus/a who has demonstrated a strong commitment to pro bono throughout his or her career.
The awards were given at the Public Interest Awards Night on Thursday, April 21, 2011.
Thomas C. Wendt '02
Since 2007, Thomas Wendt has served as the chief legal officer for the Center for Disability & Elder Law (CDEL), the same organization at which he gained his first legal experience prior to attending law school. CDEL, a not-for-profit pro bono legal services organization, serves low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Cook County.
Tom first joined CDEL as a volunteer law clerk/paralegal in 1996-97 while attending Truman College’s paralegal program. While in law school and immediately following, Tom worked at the Chicago Bar Association in the Lawyer Referral Service, making hundreds of referrals each year for low income people in Cook County. He headed into private practice for about three years, but returned to public service law, back to CDEL serving as a staff attorney and pro bono coordinator before becoming chief legal officer.
As chief legal officer, Tom is responsible for the legal service aspects of CDEL, from supervision of case management procedures to providing direct legal service as cases require. He also coordinates the center’s volunteer and internship efforts, recruiting, training, and supervising volunteers. He is also the coordinator and supervisor of CDEL’s senior center power of attorney and living will initiative (SCI), which he created. SCI is designed to provide low-income seniors access to pro bono attorneys in order to prepare Powers of Attorney and Illinois Living Will Declarations, and Tom personally conducts approximately 100 public speaking engagements and 50 workshops per year on the subject.
Tom earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in English literature from Loyola University Chicago. In his spare time, he teaches paralegal studies at the City Colleges of Chicago, Truman College and Wright College, and volunteers for numerous public interest organizations in Chicago. Tom resides in Chicago.
Christopher J. Williams '04
Christopher Williams has served as the director of the Working Hands Legal Clinic (WHLC) since its inception in 2007. WHLC, a non-profit legal clinic, works with a network of community-based worker centers to support workplace justice campaigns, and to bring access to legal services for low-wage Illinois workers in the area of labor and employment law.
As one of WHLC’s founders, Chris has extensive experience in both organizing and in the areas of labor and employment law. Through the clinic’s activities, Chris has worked on policy issues related to employment in low-wage jobs and fights to remove barriers to low-wage workers exercising their rights and being paid for their work, in addition to the direct representation services offered at WHLC.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984, Chris spent over a decade as a high school history teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, and as a teacher of English as a Second Language with the City College of Chicago. Over the next decade, he worked as a union organizer for Chicago-area labor unions, including AFSMCE, SEIU, and the Screen Actors Guild. Chris’ experience teaching in low-income immigrant communities and his labor background naturally led to his work with WHLC.
Primarily responsible for drafting the 2006 amendments to the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act and advising the Illinois legislature on issues related to the law, Chris was recently nominated by the Governor of Illinois to serve on the labor advisory board of the Illinois Department of Labor.
Chris lives in Chicago and is the proud father of three children. He is an avid bike rider and can often be spotted riding along the lakefront even on cold winter mornings.
Illinois Legal Aid Online
Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO), celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2011, helps over a million Illinois residents each year who have legal problems but don’t have the means to obtain a lawyer. Its website, IllinoisLegalAid.org, puts the law within people’s reach by providing easy-to-use legal information, self-help instructions, interactive forms, and referrals to free legal services.
By using technology, ILAO makes navigating the legal system easy, free and available 24/7 to Illinois residents facing a myriad of legal problems, such as domestic violence, mortgage foreclosure, eviction and more. Last year, they delivered critical self-help resources and attorney training and practice support to more than 1.7 million website visitors.
The website contains 60 automated document systems created with HotDocs and A2J Author® software, which makes the process of preparing legal documents and forms much easier and efficient for self‐represented persons. IllinoisLegalAid.org can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection, including at more than 50 legal self-help centers located in courthouses and public libraries across the state. ILAO also delivers training and practice support resources to volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and law students via IllinoisProBono.org.
Thomas K. Prindable '73
As managing partner at Clifford Law Offices, Thomas Prindable has led a lengthy and admirable legal career. Professionally, Tom’s experience lies in probate matters, as well as handling complex professional malpractice matters in many jurisdictions and numerous types of liability cases. In his role as managing partner, he administers the legal staff at Clifford and enjoys his work immensely because of the number of people he can help each day.
Outside of his “normal” job, however, Tom has devoted countless hours of his time to pro bono activities, most notably at Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) and its guardian ad litem program. In February 2008, Tom was named Pro Bono Attorney by Illinois Legal Aid Online for his work at CVLS, and a few months before, Clifford Law Offices received CVLS’s Distinguished Service Award for its outstanding contribution to pro bono legal services. Volunteer efforts of the attorneys at Clifford, spearheaded by Tom, were integral to CVLS’s guardian ad litem program, which helps the disabled and elderly in the probate division of the courts in Cook County.
In spring 2010, Tom led the firm’s efforts in coaching and mentoring students at a mock trial competition at Harriet Beecher Stowe Fine and Performing Arts Academy in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders participated in preparing for various roles in the mock trial including attorneys, jurors and witnesses.
Prior to attending law school, Tom spent 12 years pursuing the priesthood, reaching the final stages as a deacon of the Roman Catholic Church in Chicago. He attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, receiving a BA in Philosophy and a bachelors and masters in Theology. Tom and his wife Judy reside in Chicago and love the city.