The Pro Bono Institute, which she founded, has announced the death of Esther Lardent.
It is with profound sorrow that the Board of Directors of the Pro Bono Institute marks the passing of our beloved friend and founder Esther F. Lardent. Under Esther’s inspired leadership since its founding 20 years ago, PBI has been a leading voice in the cause of equal access to justice and an important agent in the transformation of pro bono legal services.
For many years, I had felt this special kinship with Esther. Somehow we both felt this utter impatience with what I experienced as (and I think she did too) the needlessly slow pace of change in our field, and the unwillingness to move faster with the obvious. We would sit next to each other at meetings, at the same time both whipping up each others’ frustration, and calming each other down. She was a great and needed comfort.
It was only in the last few years that I learned at least some of why there may have been this resonance. While both her parents were survivors of the Holocaust, and only one of mine was, and while my father was probably never formally under Nazi occupation, we both, I like to believe, absorbed a sense of urgency and obligation from that unique history.
She was able to take that history of pain and loss and use it to drive transformative institution building. It was never enough for her to be key in creating the pro bono movement and then rest on those laurels. On the contrary, she saw at once the inadequacies of what had been built, and created new and more ambitious possibilities.
This was the story of her life, and we are all, including millions who never met her but were helped or will be helped by the institutions she built, forever in her debt.