I love it when a law firm mover and shaker, a legal profession mover and shaker, is also a pro bono mover and shaker. That’s why I am especially thrilled that Nancy Degan is the winner of Baker Donelson’s Firmwide Pro Bono Award for 2015. Nancy has long been a force to be reckoned with, at Baker Donelson and in the profession.
For many years, Nancy has built a very successful and highly respected business and financial services litigation practice. She has long been recognized as a leader in her field – Super Lawyers, Chambers USA, Best Lawyers In America . . . . She’s been a leader at Baker Donelson, too, serving as the Chair of our Business Advocacy practice group and on our Board of Directors. Since the early 1990s, Nancy has held leadership positions in the ABA Section of Litigation, culminating in her current term as Chair of the Section. I could not have been more delighted when Nancy announced that one of her goals for her tenure as Chair would be to expand the Homeless Experience Legal Protection program to ten new cities across the country. The HELP program was started in New Orleans in 2004 by U.S. District Court Judge Jay Zainey to provide free volunteer legal help to residents of homeless shelters. Baker Donelson was one of the original firms to participate, with Nancy as one of its early volunteers. The Firm has since worked to establish HELP programs in Birmingham, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, and continues to act as coordinators for those locations, as well as continuing to serve in New Orleans.
In addition to her tireless work in expanding the HELP program to places like Washington, DC, Houston, Texas and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Nancy has continued to volunteer personally. Last year, she helped a homeless ex-offender work through both legal heirship issues and lingering family discord to gain ownership of the home left by his deceased parents.
Nancy’s work for the homeless also played a huge role in Baker Donelson being named one of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association‘s 2015 Beacon of Justice Award winners. We are so lucky to have a leader like Nancy in our midst – someone who sets the example for how we can be a tremendous success in the practice of law, provide leadership for our profession, and continue to have a caring heart and hands that help those in need.