Today we’re excited to continue profiling our pro bono partners—and to introduce you to Sarasota-based Icard Merrill. Founded in 1953 by Tom Icard and Bill Merrill Sr., the firm currently employs over 100 people, including attorneys and staff, making it one of the largest law firms in the area and a significant contributor to the Sarasota economy. The firm has also expanded its reach to Manatee, Charlotte, Lee, Hillsborough, and other counties, with offices in Lakewood Ranch, Port Charlotte, and St. Petersburg, which accompany the firm’s flagship downtown Sarasota office. All of Icard Merrill attorneys participate in pro bono activities, and we are so grateful for the firm’s pro bono plan!

Tell us about your firm’s commitment to pro bono work and how that came about

Pro bono service is an important aspect of Icard Merrill’s firm culture. In June 2008, Chief Judge Lee E. Haworth approved Icard Merrill’s “Firm Commitment to the Community,” a voluntary firm plan for pro bono services. As part of the plan, Icard Merrill members are committed to participate in pro bono activities to the fullest extent possible and to exercise leadership to address the legal needs of the working poor in our community and assist in building a local pro bono culture. Icard Merrill estimates the firm’s total hours of pro bono service will equal approximately 20 hours of pro bono service per attorney annually.

What motivated your firm to take on pro bono work for Legal Aid of Manasota?

As we all recognize the importance of pro bono service as part of our profession and to provide a benefit to the community, Chief Judge Lee E. Haworth and firm president Robert G. Lyons, Esq., worked together to create Icard Merrill’s pro bono plan.

Why is Legal Aid of Manasota important to our community?

Legal Aid of Manasota is an incredibly important organization which provides pro bono legal services to members of the community who have limited income. As the cost of legal services is very high and beyond the reach of many, Legal Aid of Manasota works to ensure equal access to the justice system and due process for all.

Give us a fun anecdote about your firm/your pro bono lawyers.

In 2010, Icard Merrill won the Florida Bar Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Award, recognizing the firm’s extraordinary commitment to provide access to the courts for all Floridians. To celebrate, several members of the firm drove together from Sarasota to Tallahassee and back in the same day, to attend the award reception.

What do you wish people understood about the justice system and legal aid? If you could wave a wand, how would you make justice work for everyone?

If everyone had access to (and used) skilled legal services for all legal matters, including to negotiate all agreements, draft all contracts, deeds and other records, and mediate or arbitrate disputes, so much litigation, damage and loss could be avoided. Therefore, we hope everyone appreciates legal services—and especially pro bono legal services.