William E. Morris Pro Bono Service Award

Awarded to recognize extraordinary contributions by an Arizona Attorney in making legal services available to persons who otherwise could not afford them, and thereby to focus public awareness on the substantial voluntary services by Arizona attorneys in this area. Renamed in 2000 to honor the memory of William E. Morris, a long-time attorney for the poor in Arizona.

Nominations are due March 1st and are to include the individual's name; firm if applicable; address & other contact information; the award for which they are being nominated and contact information of the nominators; a summary of their characteristics, experiences, and service that qualifies them for the award; and support letters from others may be included. The nomination packets should be sent to The Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, ATTN: Kevin S. Ruegg, 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 210, Phoenix, AZ 85016 or email to [email protected]

Awards Acknowledged in conjunction with the Foundation participation in the annual Arizona State Bar Convention.

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2018 Awardee

Nancy Tribbensee

Dedicating 20 years of pro bono service, Nancy has exemplified her dedication and drive in serving at-need Arizonans. The Volunteer Lawyers Program expressed their great appreciation for her commitment to excellence and immense compassion, which is clear in all her years of service. She has shown a specific interest in providing pro bono services to children, specifically those at are at-risk minors. Nancy has represented over 40 minor guardianship cases, and has also taken on cases involving grandparents as guardians, incarcerated parents, disability, abuse, and neglect. In addition, she has helped many individuals with refugee statuses who had complicated cases (e.g. needing legal documentation).

Nancy is constantly engaging with the Arizonan in attempt to make positive changes in our state. She has always demonstrated an interest in fostering and advising young lawyers, as she has mentored over 250 volunteer attorneys in child-specific legal matters. She also serves as Senior Vice President and General Counsel to the Arizona Board of Regents. The community is appreciative of her kindness and devotion to at-need Arizonans.

2017 Awardee

Lee BennettLee Bennett

Lee Bennett has volunteered for Community Legal Services Volunteer Lawyer Program for the last 6 years. In that time he has served at least 385 families, spent half a day each week at the VLP office interviewing and advising people, and provided additional assistance outside of the initial clinic to do further investigation to help advocate for the client.  He provided extensive representation to 5 clients with complex civil legal problems.  Lee provides efficient and effective interviews and case summaries enabling VLP to better determine if full representation is needed or to help aid another potential volunteer attorney in taking the case.

In one case, Mr. Bennett worked with a woman who was disable by a rare blood disease.  Lee helped for 18 months and obtained an economic benefit of $202,553 for the client on a home ownership issue.

The justice community thanks Lee for the quantity and quality of his pro bono service and his outstanding commitment to helping clients. 


2016 Awardee

Denice ShepherdDenice Shepherd

Denice's practice does not lend itself to high profile cases.  You will not read about her in the newspaper or see her on television.  But she has quietly built a career helping those most in need.  Denice joined the Southern Arizona Legal Aid Volunteer Lawyer Program in 1996.  Over the course of the last twenty years Denice has assisted children and families with minor guardianships, wills, powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney and small probate matters.

In addition to providing direct representation to clients, Denice frequently participates in the VLP's Minor Guardianship Clinic where she supervises law students as they meet with unrepresented clients at their guardianship hearings in Probate Court. 

Denice's volunteer work goes beyond the VLP to working on the Reid Park Zoological Society Board and being active in Arizona Women's Lawyer Association.


2015 Awardee

Ernest Skip SkinnerSkip Skinner

Skip has been volunteering for the Southern Arizona Legal Aid's Volunteer Lawyers Program since 2005. He volunteers at their Advice Only clinic, assists with Minor Guardianship clinics as well as accepting cases for direct representation.

Skip is a frequent participant in the VLP's Minor Guardianship Project in Probate Court where he supervises law students as they meet with unrepresented clients. In 2014, Skip led 55 VLP Clinics, donated 174 hours of his time and mentored many law students. Almost 2,000 clients have benefited from his legal expertise and 4,875 children received help through his willingness to help.

A client walking out from an Advice Only clinic with Skip was overheard saying in a broken Eastern European accent, "You are like God. I came here with a problem and now it is gone." Thank you to Skip for his continual heroic legal service.



Kathrine McLeodKatherine McLeod
Mrs. McLeod is the mother of 7 and grandmother of 16. She began her first career as a real estate broker in Michigan. After raising her children, she obtained her Michigan law license in 1991 and moved to Arizona. She obtained her Arizona Real Estate Broker′s license and Arizona Bar license and began working with her daughter in a small civil and criminal practice. About eight years ago, she began working as a volunteer lawyer with the VLP where she worked on several successful landlord cases. One case a landlord insisted that a young man brought bedbugs to the apartment and took his prepaid rent for bedbug expenses and attempted to evict him for non-payment of rent. Kate worked tirelessly for this young student and reached an amicable resolution. Kate has selflessly looked out for and protected those incapable of protecting themselves. She is someone who has recognized the truly important values amongst humanity, those of respect, dignity and equality. That is what she stands for and that is what she fights for.



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