On behalf of the ABA’s Standing Committee for Pro Bono and Public Service, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Esther Lardent, founder of the Pro Bono Institute, who passed away this week.
Esther was a pro bono hero, which is not a term you hear every day. Esther was legendary in Boston legal circles because of her work in founding and serving as the first director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, one of the first organized pro bono programs in the country which remains the premier pro bono force in Greater Boston. It was a great pleasure to get to know her because in addition to her leadership and dedication to inspiring the bar to make pro bono a major resource in meeting the legal needs of the poor, Esther was friendly, approachable and had a “wicked” sense of humor, to use a Boston term.
Many have already spoken of her extraordinary contributions to building a vibrant and productive pro bono culture in America’s law firms in and in-house legal departments, but Esther was also very involved in the ABA for many years. She served not only as an independent legal and policy consultant for the ABA but also as chair or member of numerous ABA committees and task forces, as well as on the Board of Governors and in the House of Delegates. Among her ABA accomplishments, she was the chief consultant for the ABA’s Death Penalty Representation Project at its inception and played a formative role in the creation of the ABA’s Commission on Immigration.
I sometimes considered Esther to be the conscience or watchdog of the ABA House of Delegates – when Esther rose to speak and told us we need to consider how a resolution impacted access to justice, or what should be added to ensure that a resolution served that important goal, everyone listened. There is no question her legacy will continue among those who knew her, but I have already discovered, in the few short days since her death, that those who never knew Esther but have listened to the heartfelt reminiscences about her life, are equally impressed and inspired.
Esther will be sorely missed but her work will live on among those dedicated, as was she, to ensuring that equal access to justice means justice for all.
Mary K. Ryan is a partner at the law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP and Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service.
For more on Esther’s legacy, read the statement of The Association of Pro Bono Counsel
We welcome you to leave your remembrances of Esther in the comments section.