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Quarles & Brady Names Winners of Michael Gonring Pro Bono Award, Donates $5,000 to Nonprofit Organizations

Pro Bono

Firm annual pro bono efforts surpass 23,100 hours

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — The national law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP today announced the recipients of its Quarles & Brady Michael Gonring Pro Bono Award (The Gonring Award). The 2016 honorees include a team of attorneys led by Lauren Harpke and Hillary Wucherer, as well as Jim Kaplan, Hunter DeKoninck, Julie Wittman, and Colleen Miller. The firm is donating $1,000 to nonprofits designated by each team/honoree. The announcement was made during National Pro Bono Celebration Week, October 23 - 29. The award is named in honor of retired firm partner, Michael Gonring.

A team of attorneys in the firm's Milwaukee office, led by Lauren Harpke and Hillary Wucherer, received the Pro Bono Team of the Year Award. The team was recognized for its efforts in providing legal services to individuals, most often parents of disabled children coming of age, seeking to secure guardianship rights. The team has helped over 100 families. Harpke focuses her practice on corporate environmental, health, and workers safety issues. She commonly works with corporate clients to address environmental concerns arising in mergers, acquisitions and other transactions, as well as investigating and resolving OSHA citations. Wucherer, an Intellectual Property attorney, applies her knowledge as a former mechanical design engineer to better understand her clients' technologies and create informed strategies for managing their trademark portfolios. She also counsels on copyright, licensing, marketing and social media issues. The team has designated Children's Hospital of Wisconsin to receive a firm donation in its name.

Jim Kaplan, a partner in the firm's Chicago office, received the Pro Bono Partner of the Year Award. Kaplan's pro bono work includes working with Northwestern Law School's MacArthur Justice Center Clinic (MacArthur Center) and serving as an advisory board member for the Northwestern University Law School Center on Wrongful Convictions (Center on Wrongful Convictions). With the MacArthur Center, Kaplan argued for and won an important decision on special prosecutor statutes under Illinois criminal law. In the past several years, Kaplan has helped secure the release of a dozen men wrongfully convicted of murder in Illinois. This past year he also led a team for the national Innocence Network that won a major decision at the Illinois Supreme Court on witness identifications in homicide cases. Kaplan practices in the firm's Business Law group and holds extensive experience in financial services, mergers and acquisitions, and transactional and regulatory matters. Kaplan is nationally recognized for his knowledge around modern financial institutions and has counseled many boards and governing bodies on banking and financial issues. A donation will be made to the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Kaplan's name.

Hunter DeKoninck received a Pro Bono Associate of the Year Award. DeKoninck started a legal clinic in partnership with Wheeler Mission Ministries, a residential drug rehabilitation facility in downtown Indianapolis. The legal clinic marshals support from Quarles & Brady attorneys, as well as dozens of attorneys from other local firms and government agencies, to assist Wheeler residents with their questions surrounding court hearings, family law disputes, debt issues, criminal expungement, wills and other issues. DeKoninck is a member of the Commercial Litigation Practice Group, focusing on commercial litigation, product liability, and business law with a specific focus on unfair competition and trade secrets. A donation will be made to Wheeler Mission Ministries in DeKoninck's name.

Julia Witmann also received a Pro Bono Associate of the Year Award. She provides pro bono assistance to the Florence Immigration & Refugee Rights Project which offers services to detained adults and unaccompanied children facing immigration removal proceedings in Arizona. Witmann practices out of the firm's Phoenix office, and is a member of the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. She represents local and national clients in complex contractual disputes; assists clients with alternatives to litigation, including arbitration and mediation; and represents large commercial lenders in connection with loan defaults, lender liability claims and lien priority disputes. A donation will be made on behalf of Witmann to AZ Common Ground, a community-based organization that provides services to individuals upon their release from prison with the goal of decreasing the recidivism rate.

Colleen Miller is also a recipient of the Pro Bono Associate of the Year Award. Miller's practice is based out of Quarles & Brady Tampa office and she is a member of the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. Miller is recognized for her work in representing a client in a clemency application. Her efforts helped to commute the sentence of her client from life in prison to 360 months. Miller represents and defends financial institutions in a variety of litigation disputes in both state and federal court. She also has experience in the area of insurance coverage involving both coverage analysis and litigation under personal, business and commercial lines policies. A donation will be made in Miller's name to Everyday Blessings, an organization that provides services to abused, abandoned, and neglected children.

The winners will be formally recognized at the firm-wide partners meeting on December 6, 2016.

"This year, the collective efforts of our attorneys, paralegals and staff resulted in Quarles & Brady donating over 23,100 hours of pro bono service to individuals and organizations in need," said Dawn R. Caldart, Quarles & Brady director of pro bono and professional development.

"Our continuing commitment to pro bono work not only makes a significant impact on the community, it impacts the culture of our firm and we, as a firm, are very proud of both of those outcomes," said Quarles & Brady Pro Bono Partner, Michael Levey.

The Gonring Award, named in honor of retired firm partner Michael J. Gonring's longstanding pro bono leadership and commitment to justice for the poor, honors a volunteer attorney(s) or team who has demonstrated dedication to the development and delivery of legal services through one or more pro bono projects during a fiscal year. Gonring served as the firm's national pro bono coordinator for 15 years before his retirement in 2016. He established the firm's pro bono program and made it part of the fabric of Quarles & Brady.

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