Patrick Arenz is a partner with Robins Kaplan and recent chair of the firm’s pro bono committee. Patrick has shown immense dedication to pro bono work from the time he began his career at Robins Kaplan in 2006. “I always wanted to be a lawyer, and once I joined the firm in 2006, I was really eager to be a trial lawyer,” he said. “I immediately saw pro bono work as an opportunity to help someone and to start practicing as a trial lawyer.”Within a month of joining Robins Kaplan, Patrick accepted the case of a young woman seeking asylum from Ethiopia. Patrick’s client had fled Ethiopia after being threatened for protesting and participating in a political party. With Patrick’s help, after 18 months, his client was granted asylum. Winning asylum for his client inspired Patrick to continue with his pro bono work throughout his career. According to Patrick, “When you have someone come to you with the most important problem in his or her life, and no one else to turn to, it’s a very powerful feeling and moment—one where I felt a duty to do everything I could in my power as a lawyer to help.”
“Doing pro bono work is both a privilege and a responsibility as a lawyer.”
Patrick’s pro bono work has included felony criminal defense, obtaining orders of protection in civil courts, seeking asylum for clients in immigration court, and fighting for families in Hague Convention custody disputes in federal court. Under his tenure as chair of the firm’s pro bono committee, firm member participation in pro bono work increased with impressive results. “We look at pro bono the way that I handle it in my own practice,” he said. “From a committee standpoint, we want to make sure people in the firm have opportunities. I strive to make sure that associates and partners know that they should do what is most interesting for them, and what will make the most impact.”
Patrick brings the same philosophy to his pro bono work as he does to all of his trial work. Notable victories include his work in Panyia Vang v. Thiawachu Prataya, where he secured a jury verdict on behalf of a sex tourism victim who was raped by a U.S. citizen in Laos when she was 14 years old, securing what is believed to be the first civil jury verdict in a sex tourism case. Of the Panyia Vang case, Patrick said, “Absent someone stepping up, the client wouldn’t have had the ability to pursue her case. That’s how I’ve gone about it, and how I’ve ended up with a variety of pro bono cases. I look at what is going to be challenging and how I can use my skills to make the most impact for the client.”
Patrick also serves as a Special Assistant Attorneys General in a case in which Robins Kaplan is co-counsel with the Illinois Attorney General in a pro bono lawsuit against the City of Chicago seeking police reform. Patrick was also instrumental in developing a trial skills pro bono program for first-year associates at Robins Kaplan. In affiliation with the Tubman Family Alliance, a non-profit in Minnesota dedicated to serving victims of trauma, Robins Kaplan first-year associates take cases seeking orders of protection for survivors of domestic violence. This program introduces first-year associates to the firm’s pro bono commitment, aids in professional development, and makes an immediate impact on the community.
As a busy attorney, finding time for pro bono is never easy, but according to Patrick, “You just have to make time. When I look at opportunities I can’t turn down, I just have to figure out how to do it. When you treat it as a priority, you find time to make it a priority.” Asked what he would tell others who are thinking of doing pro bono, Patrick replied, “Give it a try, find an opportunity. Once you do pro bono work, you’ll want to do more of it. People see how much of a difference they can make and how unfairly a lot of our clients have been treated.”
“Once you realize the power you have as an attorney to help clients in need, pro bono work begets more pro bono work.”
Thank you, Patrick for your commitment to pro bono and your excellent work. Congratulations on being named a recipient of the 2018 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award!
View Patrick’s 2018 Pro Bono Publico Awards video here!