Thompson Coburn attorneys secured a favorable result for a pro bono client in one of the firm’s first cases with the Settlement Assistance Project, a volunteer program that connects Chicago litigators with low-income plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases. The program is run by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.
Business litigation partners Todd Rowden and Susan Lorenc and associate Nikki Rivers represented the client, the supervisor of a moving company who alleged his former employer discriminated against him on the basis of race, national origin and age. After hours of pro bono work and a successful mediation hearing, the parties reached an agreement that benefits the plaintiff and spares the defendant company from prolonged litigation with a pro se plaintiff unfamiliar with the judicial system.
As part of the Settlement Assistance Project, partner Joel Haber serves as the firm’s liaison to the Lawyers’ Committee, which distributes meritorious discrimination claims to volunteer attorneys and firms. The majority of SAP cases are employment disputes, but the program also addresses housing discrimination, prisoners’ rights, and excessive force cases against the police department.
Rivers handled most of the prep work on the case, with support from Lorenc. She reviewed all documents, analyzed the legal arguments and met with the client. Rowden and Lorenc led the settlement discussions for the client.
Rivers said her work for the Settlement Assistance Project allowed her give back to the community and gain more experience as a litigator.
“This case allowed me to handle a lot of client management, and it’s huge for a young lawyer to get that kind of opportunity,” she said. “I was the one in contact with the client, I met with him, I followed up. Those are invaluable skills that it takes most attorneys years to develop.”
While no formal training is required, the Settlement Assistance Project does offer a free training program that provides instruction and guidance from several federal court judges.