Monday, March 25, 2013

Wills for Heroes

I don't think I have posted about this before, but I volunteer occasionally to assist a team of lawyers with creating and executing wills (and powers of attorney) for first responders in the Chicago area.  It's something I've wanted to do for years, but when I worked with the courts, I wasn't allowed to do pro bono work.

In October, I joined Wills for Heroes at the Geneva, IL fire station.  I manned a station with another female lawyer and we filled out forms for two or three wills for first responders.  It was really nice to talk with them and try to inject some humor into talking about your own death on a Saturday morning.  It was also kind of surreal, because the fire alarm went off in the middle of one of our client interviews.  (He didn't have to go put out the fire.)

They also had some hilarious stories.  While we were waiting for our client's wife to call back with some vital information, I asked him what his best story was.  Characteristic for these men, he said humbly that he had no good stories.  Upon further prodding, he admitted that he did have one:  while he was chasing a shoplifter, the shoplifter took off her clothes and squirted all of the pursuing officers with breast milk.  (My table partner asked the obvious question:  "What kind of range did she get?"  Answer:  "Four or five feet.")

So, when I learned of another Wills for Heroes event taking place this weekend, I jumped at it.  This one was at Chicago Police Headquarters at 35th and Michigan.  And this time, they were running low on "experts," who are the people who actually review the finished wills and help the clients with signing / witnessing / notarization.  I felt very fancy with my red "expert" badge.

I got there with plenty of time to spare and parked in the type of large parking lot that only police enjoy in the city.  The entrance had two long glass cases of gleaming silver badges, which I assumed were awards for service.  (More on those in a minute.)

At first, I was at a table with another expert, and we had a lot of fun with two different sets of clients.  Again, lots of joking, lots of personal chit chat.  Then, I had to move tables because they didn't have enough experts, so I did two more on my own.  On my own!  It was really fun.  My favorite client was very chatty about a particular pound cake recipe that included 7-Up, so he wrote out the recipe for me.

I left feeling really great about helping these brave men and women.  One thing I noticed was that a lot of Chicago police are married to other members of the force.  In my favorite couple, the wife was one of the only female officers assigned to the Englewood neighborhood in the 1970s.  Crazy stories there.

On my way out, I stopped to look closer at the cases of badges I had noticed on my way in.  Instead of being awards for service, they were medals to honor officers killed in the line of duty.  There really was no greater reminder for me of the importance of what I had done that day - helping to ensure that these officers, who put their life on the line and have a very real threat of death on duty, have full legal protection in case the worst happens.

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