Many of you have read posts on this blog from Claudia Johnson. Most of us did not know where here passion for access, and indeed the breadth of her vision, came from. As she tells us in a recent post on the Pro Bono Net blog:
From the 1920s to the mid-1940s, my paternal great grandfather, Rafael Benjamin Colindres, sat on the Supreme Court of El Salvador. Aside from working to move the Court to modern rules and processes, he also authored the Penal Code in El Salvador, as well as the Commercial Code—including printing them so that they would be accessible. I chanced upon these codes at the rare book collection at Doe Library Berkeley when I was in college—and this is how I found out about his pro bono work. Finding the books was thrilling, especially since I had lost every connection to my past in the civil war that ravaged El Salvador in the 1980s. I peppered my dad with questions about Rafael Benjamin. He shared this story with me when I was 19. My mom corroborated it—as it also involved her family. And since then, his example doing pro bono work has been my legacy.
Its an inspiring story. Read it, especially the ending:
Though I am four generations down the line from Rafael Benjamin, his example and his values continue to move me. Due to the civil war, I never got to learn and study the codes my grandfather authored and edited, nor read his decisions. Instead I studied the Uniform Commercial Code and criminal law in the US and read other decisions. However, despite never having the privilege to study or practice the same law as he did (which was my original plan at age five before the civil war got in the way), his example and the social conscience he instilled in his children and grandchildren is what creates in me the strong belief that practicing law is not a business, but a vocation, a gift to be shared with others for the benefit of our community, and with others in need. And that is why I am now focusing on the needs of those without lawyers in my America. Four generations down—and the pro bono work my great grandfather did still has an impact.