TALLAHASSEE — Judge Laurel Isicoff
has been recognized for her work related to providing the public with
pro bono legal services, according to a news
release from The Florida Bar.
Isicoff, chief judge of the U.S.
Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Florida, was tapped to
receive the Distinguished Federal Judicial Services Award for pro
bono service by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
incredibly honored," Isicoff told The Florida
Record. "That's how I feel."
public-information coordinator for the Florida Bar, told The
Florida Record it is only the second year that the pro
bono-specific award has been presented, although the DFJSA has been
around since 2005.
Hohmeister said that Isicoff was unanimously
chosen by the Chief Justice's Pro Bono Advisory Committee, a 15-seat
panel, for her involvement in statewide pro bono service and local
community groups, as well as acting as a catalyst for her district to
Isicoff said that although she doesn't remember how
she got her first pro bono case, this type of work is something she's
always done as a law professional.
"From the time I started
practicing law, I've always had pro bono cases," Isicoff said.
"I don't think it ever occurred to me to not try to
Since becoming a judge in her district in 2006 —
which also includes becoming the district's first female bankruptcy
judge, per the news release — Isicoff has no longer been able to
work pro bono cases. But she said she has worked for the last 11
years to encourage others to engage in providing pro bono services to
those who need them.
Isicoff said she worked with a former
colleague to create and install a pro bono bankruptcy clinic at St.
Thomas University, developing curriculum and teaching the class
together. Students would then work alongside lawyers and provide pro
bono service in active cases. Isicoff said that model has been used
at other South Florida schools, including the University of Miami and
Nova Southeastern University.
But Isicoff's commitment to
encouraging pro bono work doesn't stop there. She helped create a Pro
Bono Bankruptcy Summit for her district, which she said helps draw
ideas from other law professionals on how to encourage that type of
work. She also said she is one of several judges currently working
with The Florida Bar Foundation to help launch an online service that
would help lawyers easily pick up pro bono opportunities, which she
said is set to go live in Miami-Dade County by the end of the
"The idea would be that any lawyer could go online,
and the agencies that assign pro bono cases would have posted all
different kinds of opportunities, and then the lawyer could just
scroll down and pick the case that they want to do," Isicoff
For Isicoff, the bottom line on pro bono work comes down to
"I just think that we, as lawyers ... just like
doctors ... when you have a special skill, and you can use that skill
to help people less fortunate than yourself, that you should do it,"
she said. "It's just a wonderful feeling when you have someone
whose life can truly be changed."