Honors: Legal Aid of Western Michigan announces 2022 Pro Bono Award winners

 Legal Aid of Western Michigan is delighted to honor the law firm Gruel Mills Nims & Pylman, PLLC with the 2022 Michael S. Barnes Award; and to honor attorney Charles E. Burpee, of Warner Norcross + Judd, with the 2022 Justice in Action Award. Both Gruel Mills and Burpee have distinguished themselves through pro bono advocacy on behalf of West Michigan client communities.

The Michael S. Barnes Award recognizes a law firm or an attorney who has made significant pro bono contributions benefiting legal aid clients. Michael S. Barnes, a partner with the law firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, was a dominant force in providing legal aid and pro bono service to LAWM’s client communities.

“It can be a hard problem, but also a very happy one, to select individual law firms and attorneys from among our many, dedicated pro bono supporters,” said Legal Aid Executive Director Pam Hoekwater. “For decades we have counted on Gruel Mills. They volunteer on challenging cases. They have generously shared their time and expertise with our attorneys. And they are leaders in our legal community. When we at LAWM call, Gruels Mills answers. For these reasons and many more the law firm’s attorneys and staff deserve this prestigious honor.”

The Justice in Action Award, highlights a pro bono volunteer’s or law office’s exceptional contributions to serving pro bono clients in the past year.

“We had been considering whether to create a new award so that we could recognize those times when, over the course of a year, a pro bono advocate simply goes above and beyond,” said Hoekwater. “Chuck Burpee made that decision for us. He is a longtime volunteer, just as his law firm, Warner, is a longtime LAWM supporter. But this year Chuck has been an extension of our staff as we expanded our capacity to do criminal record expungements. Chuck recognized how expungements can help people change their lives, leading to better jobs and housing. He jumped right in. Chuck is a sharp advocate, a thoughtful colleague, and he still takes other types of referrals on top of all else. We could not ask for more.”

LAWM will present the awards to Gruel Mills and Burpee at its annual Barnes Award Ceremony & Pro Bono Reception, on Oct. 20 in Grand Rapids. 

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