“Helping people, and giving them access to justice and equal opportunity are key to my values, and pro bono allows me to act on those values.”
The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) wishes to recognize Susan Tobin, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel-ADA for JPMorgan Chase & Co., for her long-standing dedication to access to justice in the Central Ohio community.
Sue reached out to LASC in 2014 to facilitate the engagement of JPMorgan Chase in pro bono work. With Sue’s leadership, Chase committed to host a CLE and then staff a brief advice clinic on the west side at the Brian Muha Run the Race Club, an after-school program for at-risk youth in the Hilltop neighborhood. The clinic evolved to add a special education focus in 2015, and just this past April, JPMorgan Chase celebrated its second annual “Day of Service” at LASC. During this event, thirty-two members of its Legal Department devoted their days to staffing Naturalization clinics and assisting with projects at LASC and its sister program Ohio Poverty Law Center. Sue felt that the day was a success as it brought in many lawyers “who had never been engaged in this type of work before [and] who were clearly impacted by the clients with whom they met.”
Additionally, she felt that the experience, “gave participants both perspective of hardships that individuals had experienced, and inspiration from those individuals who are looking for a better life.” And although many Chase members have contributed to the successful pro bono programming, “Sue has been instrumental in launching the Chase Pro Bono partnership with The Legal Aid Society of Columbus,” notes her colleagues and fellow attorneys Judith Fisher and Jed Sonstroem.
In addition to her ADA work at JPMorgan Chase, Sue has served as the chair of the regional pro bono committee and a member of the global pro bono and diversity committees at the firm. Prior to joining Chase, she spent 32 years as an attorney with the Ohio Legal Rights Service, now Disability Rights Ohio. While there, she devoted her talents to advocating for the special education rights of children. Sue played an integral role in convincing the State Department of Education to issue rules restricting the use of restraint and seclusion in Ohio’s schools, served as lead counsel in a state-wide class action seeking adequate and equitable funding of special education services, successfully litigated on behalf of children with autism so that they could receive critical behavioral health services through Medicaid, and settled a state-wide lawsuit filed on behalf of voters with disabilities who needed accommodations in the voting process.
Her commitment to serving this population has carried through to her Chase position. Notes Fisher and Sonstroem: “As a colleague, Sue has provided expert advice relating to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Her involvement goes beyond providing legal advice and support as she genuinely cares about people with disabilities. This caring has extended to providing pro bono legal services to Columbus people in need.”
Sue has dedicated much of her career to giving a voice to the voiceless. In turn, pro bono work gives her “a sense of balance and a sense of purpose.” Her support for pro bono has spread to her fellow members of the Chase legal department. Fisher and Sonstroem reflect that “in addition to being a colleague, Sue is also a mentor and friend and we have been proud to work with her in supporting LASC.”
For those who are fearful about becoming involved in pro bono work she advises, “do not hesitate.” Sue assures that “the support is there. The training, materials, services, and LASC employees, all can support you. You don’t have to be an expert to assist clients. Participate where you feel the most comfortable and have the most value, and again, know that the support is there.”
In addition to the impact pro bono work has on the community, Sue adds that there are great benefits for the volunteers. “Helping people, even in a small way, or listening to someone’s concerns, giving them advice, and having them leave grateful is a gift to the attorney.”
Sue has been a gift to LASC, and we are grateful for the momentum she has initiated and has continued to foster to ensure greater resources for access to justice in our community.