History and Purpose
Conceived by Justice Sheila Prell Sonenshine in 1994, the annual Pro Bono Reception is designed to introduce new lawyers and accountants at Orange County’s larger law and professional services firms to pro bono and volunteer service opportunities in the community. By bringing together legal and accounting professionals and social service agencies, as well as arts and cultural organizations, the Pro Bono Reception provides a venue to explore opportunities and to make a pro bono commitment. Well over a thousand new Orange County attorneys and accountants have attended the Reception since its inception.
Organizations and Groups Served
Because only three California State Bar IOLTA funded agencies serve Orange County’s three million plus people, these providers partner with other county human services agencies. The Reception therefore always includes traditional pro bono providers like the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and the Public Law Center, as well as domestic violence service agencies, food and shelter groups, and health care providers. Arts and education groups who support outreach programs to the disadvantaged also regularly attend. Through the years, all these groups have benefited from hundreds of hours of donated time from professionals new to the Orange County community.
A clearinghouse of pro bono opportunities in Orange County can be found here.
Justice Sheila Prell Sonenshine
The Honorable Sheila Sonenshine has lived her life pursuing and bringing justice to the world. After receiving a Bachelor’s in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Juris Doctor from the Loyola University School of Law, she began a distinguished 35-year career in law and business. Justice Sonenshine was appointed to the Superior Court of Orange County in 1981 and in 1982 was elevated to the California Court of Appeal where she served until 1999.
Though most people would find retirement a respite from a long career, Justice Sonenshine chose to make it a new beginning. When she left the bench, she co-founded RSM EquiCo, an international investment bank that specialized in mergers and acquisitions of middle market companies. She retired from RSM in 2004 and went on to manage the Escher Fund, a private equity fund that focuses on growth-state, women-owned, and women-led businesses. Justice Sonenshine joined the JAMS Alternative Dispute Resolution Center in 2008.
Justice Sonenshine’s work on the bench, as a businesswoman, and as a philanthropist has led to many awards, including the California State Bar Association Jurist of the Year, The American Bar Association Outstanding Service to Family Law, the Anti-Defamation League Marcus Kaufman Jurisprudence Award, and Temple Bat Yahm’s Elie Wiesel Award for Jewish Ideals and Human Dignity.