When it comes to choosing an Honorary Chair for the Justice For All Ball (JFAB), the committee chair(s), and those involved in the selection, do not take this particular job lightly.
The selection of the Honorary Chair helps us bring a theme and continuity to the experience created in the lead up to, and on the night of the Ball. More importantly, the Honorary Chair opens doors to help us introduce The Pro Bono Project to new individuals and groups who might support our work in the community through in-kind products or services, financial contributions, or additional connections for us.
Initially, the Ball did not have an Honorary Chair. Over the years, we begin to honor individuals from the legal community. In recent times, we have reached beyond those borders bringing in business, non-profit and other community leaders as our Honorary Chair.
In today’s Tales of the Ball, we pay tribute to the many Honorary Chairs, who have made a difference for The Project, its clients, volunteers, staff, and the many other involved who support our mission everyday. To honor these individuals, we offer the thoughts of our JFAB 2014 Honorary Chair, Marcus Brown, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Entergy from an article published when he was Honorary Chair.
Marcus and his team of lawyers at Entergy have been deep inside The Project for many years now. They understand our mission in a most intimate way – by taking cases and coming face to face with those in our community who are most in need of civil legal services.
As Honorary Chair, Marcus and Entergy stepped up in a big way to make sure The Project continues to open the doors to civil justice for hundreds of metro-area families, children, seniors, small businesses and non-profits. His personal experience, Entergy’s core values, and the active involvement with pro bono work of Marcus and his legal team have made this level of commitment possible.
“I grew up in a community where people rarely had access to lawyers, so I know first-hand how difficult it can be to solve many of life’s problems without their assistance. I often think about why I went to law school in the first place. It may be a cliché, but I genuinely wanted to make a difference,” explains Marcus.
“While I enjoy the work I do at Entergy, the pro bono work I do is different. Through pro bono work lawyers can empower people who have nowhere else to turn. When a mother hugs you after helping her adopt a child or after blocking an eviction from her home, you remember why you went to law school. It makes you feel like a better person. And you are.”
His personal commitment to pro bono has been evident since he became Entergy’s General Counsel in 2012.
“When I became General Counsel, I spearheaded an initiative designed to get all of the 75 plus lawyers in our Company to engage in pro bono work each year. We have assembled resources in our Law Department and put in place two effective and committed leaders of this initiative to assist their colleagues in reaching that goal,” he said.
He sees this initiative as critical in strengthening the communities in which his team lives, acknowledging that they are more than just lawyers, but also area residents, who live and work beside Entergy’s customers.
Marcus continues, “This effort is extremely important to New Orleans and the other communities in which our lawyers work, and also to the lawyers themselves. They are more in touch with our customers, they develop personal and professional skills, and I believe they get more satisfaction from their jobs when their work includes time devoted to their own communities.”
Entergy has supported The Project on many fronts over the years. Marcus, then members of his legal team, have served on the board, taken cases, lead workshops, participated in clinics, volunteered at events, and when appropriate, have funded programs that serve the community and provide support to The Project’s staff and volunteer lawyers.
When asked what he might say to other area businesses on why it’s important to get involved by supporting The Project financially, as well as through volunteerism and resource donations, Brown offers an insider’s look at the big picture.
“The Project’s model works. New Orleans is Entergy’s corporate home. It’s also a city where many citizens face great economic hardship. The Pro Bono Project is worthy of the business community’s support because traditional legal services organizations are stretched to capacity and are able to serve only a small segment of the poorest members of our community. The Project is able to pair the considerable skill and energy of private lawyers, such as those who work for Entergy, with clients who desperately need civil legal information and representation. Finally, all of us who live and work in the community, and the overall community itself, benefit when these civil legal needs are met,” said Brown.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
If you have a JFAB story to share, please send it to CC Kahr
Sidebar photos: JFAB 2014 invitation; Marcus Brown and The Honorable Nanette Brown, with then Mayor and Mrs. Mitch Landrieu, photo by Karl Kratenberg for St. Charles Magazine, copyright 2014.