Lou Craco, Visionary: A Reflection by John Kiernan

February 19, 2020

Louis A. Craco

On February 15, the Volunteers of Legal Service family and New York City's legal community learned the sad news that Louis A. Craco passed away at age 86. Mr. Craco co-founded VOLS in 1984, and his leadership with the VOLS Board of Directors continued for 35 years as past Chair, as an active member, and later in an emeritus role until this year. On behalf of VOLS, Board member John S. Kiernan shares his reflections:


"Sometimes the passage of time makes the insight of a visionary seem obvious. Thirty-five years ago, when Lou Craco developed the idea of forming an organization devoted to developing pro bono opportunities for volunteer lawyers -- and to coaxing commercial lawyers to devote more time to providing legal services for low-income New Yorkers --  he was treading a new path.  The Legal Aid Society was providing civil legal services, and the precursor of Legal Services NYC was operating storefront offices to help clients in the City’s poorest neighborhoods. But the concept of capturing volunteer resources from private lawyers underlying Lou’s formation of VOLS was new.


"Lou believed that lawyers would seize the opportunity to provide pro bono work if the opportunity was presented to them in the right way.  He also believed that firms would inspire their lawyers to work extra pro bono hours if they made public commitments to do so.  On that basis, he helped to develop the seminal VOLS Pledge, under which signatory law firms publicly committed to providing at least 30 pro bono hours per lawyer per year – a standard that motivated firms to fulfill promises of generosity many years  before the Pro Bono Institute and the American Lawyer began their similar efforts.


"Lou approached the big picture of how to advance the legal needs of the poor with deep personal commitments of energy, infectious enthusiasm, a belief in what could be accomplished with some focused effort, and a profound sense of the dignity and the responsibility to others that should attach to any legal career. He had a strong mechanical and practical sense of how to get things done, a wise perspective about picking the most promising routes toward progress, and a warm and kind heart. 


"Lou Craco was the model of the fully realized lawyer and person. VOLS, those of us who knew him, and the legal profession generally were lucky to have him."


Mr. Kiernan is a Member and Past Chair of the Volunteers of Legal Services Board of Directors. He is a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.


VOLS Historical 10th Anniversary Publication:

Report on Early VOLS Leadership with Lou Craco:


VOLS 10th Anniversary Publication