2019 Annual Conference: Awards

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Guidelines & Process



Nominations for the Annual Conference Awards are now open! You, or the organization for which you work, must be an NLADA member to submit a nomination. Nominations will be reviewed and award decisions made by the NLADA Conference Committee. All decisions of the committee are final. The Committee may bestow more than one award in a particular category, or it may elect not to confer an award in a particular category.

Winners (or their designated representatives) will receive a complimentary registration to attend the NLADA Annual Conference for the formal presentation. NLADA cannot underwrite the cost of travel to the conference to accept the award. We will, however, pay for one hotel night at the conference hotel.

Nominations Deadline: July 26, 2019.



Each award has its own eligibility requirements and criteria. Please see individual award criteria, below. Letters of nomination must explain why the nominee meets the specific criteria of the award. Current members of the NLADA Board of Directors; Civil, Defender, or Client Councils; Conference Committee; and staff are ineligible to make nominations or receive awards.



Please submit nominations either electronically via email with documents in PDF format OR by regular mail on 8.5” x 11” paper. Each submission packet should include the following:

  • The Nomination Information Sheet should be the first page in the nomination packet.

  • A Letter of Nomination (not to exceed three pages) should include the following:

    • Name of the award for which the nominee should be considered.

    • Explanation of how the nominee fits the enumerated criteria for the award (see “Award Eligibility and Criteria” and specific information for each award).

    • A detailed description of the nominee’s achievements.

    • Outstanding events or work beyond the call of duty.

  • Letters of Support (no more than three) should address the nominee’s impact on the letter writer or the nominee’s community. Each letter of support should not exceed two pages.

  • Other Supporting Documents may include newspaper clippings or publicity received, awards, or other supporting materials. Additional documents must be limited to 10 pages.

  • The Nominee’s Resume should be included, if available.


Current members of the NLADA Board of Directors; Civil, Defender, or Client Councils; Conference Committee; and staff may not make award nominations or be nominated, be involved in the preparation of the nomination packet, or promote the candidacy of a nominee. However, an NLADA member who wishes to nominate someone for an award and needs clerical or other technical assistance to complete the application process may contact [email protected]. Staff can offer explanations or clarifications of award criteria to help nominators determine which award is appropriate for prospective candidates; can provide examples of the kinds of information to include in letters of support; and can share bios of past award winners as examples.

Award Descriptions


Award Statement
The Charles Dorsey Award honors an individual who has provided extraordinary and dedicated leadership to both the equal justice community and to organizations that promote access to justice for low-income people. This award is for a leader of a national or statewide organization, who does not have to be an attorney, in civil legal aid. The award celebrates the accomplishments of the longtime executive director of the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland, whose many national leadership roles included service as chair of the Project Advisory Group and as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.


A person who has provided at least two years of leadership to a national or statewide organization devoted to fulfilling the promise of equal justice will be eligible for the Charles Dorsey Award. The person must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Providing extraordinary and dedicated service to a national or statewide organization whose mission is to expand and improve access to justice for low-income people.
  • Demonstrating leadership, assuming responsibility, and facilitating the disposition of issues in ways that have enabled the organization to measurably advance the cause of justice for all.
  • Earning through his or her work on behalf of the equal justice organization the admiration and respect of the equal justice community.



Award Statement
The Clara Shortridge Foltz Award commends a public defender program or public defense delivery system for outstanding achievement in the provision of services to indigent defendants. The award, co-sponsored by NLADA and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, is named for a founder of the nation’s public defender system.


Entries may include public defender programs and public defense delivery systems, including an entire organization, as well as a division, branch, or special project of a defense organization or system, and must meet one or more of the award criteria:

  • Exemplifying a best practice of public defense advocacy that can serve as an inspirational national model.
  • Expanding measurably or improving access to full and excellent criminal defense representation for those who cannot afford counsel.
  • Representing a creative and promising innovation worthy of continued development and replication by others.



Award Statement
The Emery A. Brownell Award gives national recognition to newspapers, magazines, online/digital publications, filmmakers, and television and radio stations that have informed the public about the crucial role played by civil legal aid or defender organizations in advancing equal justice for those who cannot afford counsel. This award is named for Emery Brownell, who served as NLADA’s executive director from 1940 until his death in 1961.


Entries of media coverage, including print, audio, and audiovisual coverage, will be eligible if they have appeared during the two years preceding the award nomination deadline and meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Informing and educating the public about the need for legal services to persons who have traditionally been denied such assistance.
  • Fostering a greater understanding of the lawyer’s role in the resolution of disputes, particularly those involving persons who traditionally have been denied access to justice.
  • Bringing attention to the importance of the constitutional right to counsel in criminal proceedings.
  • Bringing attention to the need for civil legal assistance for low-income people and communities.


For print publications, the nomination packet must include a photocopy of the publication. For audio or audiovisual coverage, a single copy of the production on DVD or CD-Rom, along with a written transcript of the entry, must be provided. For online/digital publications, a web-link and printed copy must be provided.

Certain media outlets do not allow their employees to accept awards such as this. Nominators should ensure that their nominees may accept this award before submitting a nomination.



Award Statement
The Mary Ellen Hamilton Award honors a legal services client or low-income community leader who, on a compensated or volunteer basis, has provided extraordinary support to the delivery of legal assistance to low-income people, to increase involvement of low-income people in the fight for equal justice, or to enhance the involvement of low-income people in their cases. The award commemorates Mary Ellen Hamilton, one of the founders of the National Clients Council and the Alliance for Legal Rights, who served on NLADA’s Board of Directors and remained an active Alliance member until her death in 1985.


A person is eligible to be recognized for service in a volunteer or paid capacity as a client, a client board member, or a community advocate and who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Providing extraordinary service to or support for the goal of achieving equal justice for low-income people.
  • Demonstrating leadership in a local, state, or national role to enhance the involvement of clients as decision makers in their individual cases and in the legal aid programs that advocate on their behalf.
  • Promoting or exemplifying the effective engagement of clients and other representatives of low-income communities in the delivery of legal assistance in those communities.



Award Statement
The New Leaders in Advocacy Award honors rising attorneys who exhibit extraordinary leadership early in their careers as civil legal aid or indigent defense advocates. Recipients will also be invited to participate in NLADA’s Beacon of Justice selection process in the following year.


Nominees must be attorneys employed by, or affiliated with, organizations serving persons who cannot afford to pay for legal representation in either civil or criminal matters. They must have practiced law for at least three but not more than eight years. Factors that will be considered in the selection process include:

  • Achieving favorable results for clients while employing creative approaches to legal work.
  • Demonstrating a personal commitment to the mission of the work.
  • Demonstrating extraordinary leadership skills and talents.
  • Gaining support for his or her work from non-traditional partners.


Nominations must include a statement of no more than 600 words showing how the person has met the award’s criteria. Include the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of three people who have agreed to verify the nominee’s accomplishments.



Award Statement
The Reginald Heber Smith Award recognizes the dedicated service and outstanding achievements of a civil legal aid or indigent defense attorney while employed by an organization supporting such services. This award is for an attorney, either civil or defender, who provides direct services to clients. The “Reggie” is named for a former counsel at the Boston Legal Aid Society who was author of Justice and the Poor, published by the Carnegie Foundation in 1919.


A person is eligible to be recognized for service as a civil legal aid or indigent defense attorney while employed by an organization supporting such service. The award may be given up to two years after the attorney’s termination of employment with the organization. The nominee must be an attorney and meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Providing extraordinary and successful legal advocacy on behalf of clients who could not otherwise afford counsel.
  • Advancing significantly the cause of equal justice for individual clients or low-income communities.
  • Exemplifying, through his or her record of exceptional advocacy, leadership, dedication, and the very best the equal justice community has to offer.

Click here to download the Nomination Information Sheet.


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