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Family law attorney to receive national award

Rebecca Berfanger
June 2, 2010
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For doing pro bono work and for promoting pro bono work among others in the legal community, an Indianapolis attorney has learned she will receive a national award at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco in August.

A Marion Superior judge, a pro bono plan administrator, and others who have worked with or otherwise witnessed Patty McKinnon’s pro bono efforts nominated her for the Edmund S. Muskie Pro Bono Service Award, which recognizes members of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section.

Attorney Michael Brown of Kightlinger & Gray in Indianapolis confirmed McKinnon would receive the award. He had asked Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer for a recommendation because of the judge’s work with equal access to justice issues, and the judge suggested McKinnon.

Included with her nomination for the honor to the Law and Public Service Committee of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section were examples of her work encouraging other attorneys to take on pro bono cases.

For instance, Brown said, the committee was particularly impressed with a family law how-to DVD she helped organize.

In spring 2006, McKinnon approached the Indiana Bar Foundation and Indiana Continuing Legal Education Foundation with the idea to create a family law DVD for attorneys who were unfamiliar with the practice area who still wanted to help.

Filming took place in fall 2006, and the DVDs were distributed to pro bono plan administrators around the state in 2008.

Brown said a California attorney who is also a member of the ABA section expressed an interest in creating a similar DVD for that state’s pro bono efforts.

Plan administrators in Indiana have also expressed how helpful it has been to have the DVD for pro bono attorneys as a reference during family law cases.

McKinnon’s recommendation was one of seven nominations from around the country, and the only one from Indiana. Brown said McKinnon was chosen out of a list that included bar association presidents and others who were involved in their communities’ pro bono efforts by leading legal organizations.

“In the end, the committee wanted to recognize someone who was doing it on her own,” he said. “Patricia’s work in trying to help people who find themselves in a situation where their domestic relationship is deteriorating, but they can’t afford a lawyer to help them, fit the section’s current theme of” equal justice for all, particularly indigent and homeless people, Brown added.

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