Kristen E. Hudson worked on a pro bono adoption case early in her career that really stands out in her memory.
The case involved grandparents who adopted their eight grandchildren, including one who legally became an adult, said Hudson, a Schopf & Weiss LLP partner.
When Hudson asked the older offspring why he wanted the adoption, he replied that he loved his grandparents and wanted to bear their names, she said.
"I often think about that case and how refreshing it is to be able to do something simple but really has an impact on someone else's life in a positive way," she said. "I think about that moment and oftentimes I realize that's why we have to keep doing things like that, because it makes a difference in people's lives."
Hudson, 37, serves as chairwoman of the firm's pro bono committee and also sits on Chicago Volunteer Legal Services' (CVLS) board of directors.
Sandy L. Morris, a senior attorney at Chico & Nunes P.C., previously worked with Hudson at Schopf & Weiss and also serves on CVLS' board of directors. Morris said Hudson worked for several years pro bono representing a child as a guardian ad litem.
Hudson "sees this as part of her commitment to being a lawyer (and) that we just don't help our paying clients," she said. "We have an obligation to help those who cannot afford an attorney and need good representation."
Hudson said her interest in assisting others began while she attended The John Marshall Law School. At that time, she received a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) fellowship.
While a PILI fellow, Hudson obtained an Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711 license, which allows law students to argue cases under the supervision of a licensed lawyer.
"It was great exposure for me in the courtroom," she said.
After completing the fellowship, she applied with CVLS and began to represent indigent clients there. She's handled various matters, including adoptions and divorce cases.
She said it introduced public service work to her and made her "a lifetime donor, volunteer and champion of the cause."
Margaret C. Benson, CVLS' executive director, said she met her while Hudson attended law school.
Hudson took to pro bono work quicker than some other law students, she said.
"She was always enthusiastic and really excited about it," Benson said.
Hudson represented CVLS clients in minor and adult guardianship matters, along with a mortgage foreclosure case, she said.
"She's really helping us out across the board," Benson said. "She's someone I can always count on."
Hudson, who joined Schopf & Weiss in 2007, represents clients in business litigation and handles insurance coverage matters on behalf of policyholders.
"She brings her litigation skills to the pro bono work she does," said Steven A. Weiss, Schopf & Weiss' chairman, who added that most pro bono matters don't result in trials.
"But having that ability and experience in doing trial work allows her to obtain more favorable resolutions for her pro bono clients.
"What she adds to the (equation) is her sense of justice and wanting to help people."
In her role heading Schopf & Weiss' pro bono committee, Hudson said she coordinates pro bono opportunities for the firm's 22 lawyers.
Through CVLS, the firm began last year representing certain defendants as part of the foreclosure mediation program in the Cook County Circuit Court, Hudson said.
The firm's lawyers help homeowners find ways to modify their loans or develop some other exit strategy, she said.
"It relieves the burden on the homeowner a bit if we can get an agreement that works for everybody," she said.
Morris said she serves on CVLS' development committee with Hudson and sees her involvement firsthand with CVLS.
"I've seen her really engage her firm in not only being a financial supporter, she said, "but volunteering time as well."