RCBA Pro Bono Awards Profiles

RCBA Pro Bono Awards: Meet Our Honorees. Wendy Willson Legge and Bill Tilton


About the Honorees

Bill Tilton

Bill Tilton has been involved in pro bono efforts for his entire career, including community organizing, assisting non-profits in clerical matters, and doing civil petition for protesters of the DAPL Pipeline at Standing Rock. He’s also been a volunteer with SMRLS since 1986, where he’s assisted in litigation for pro bono clients and participated in Tuesday night legal clinics to provide accessible legal help to Ramsey County residents. 

Tilton’s pro bono practice has covered a significant range of legal areas. When asked for advice to other attorneys venturing out of their practice area to provide pro bono representation, Tilton said he used resources from SMRLS and took advantage of their training programs. He’s also found that directly asking other attorneys for their insights can be very helpful. “I’ve found most lawyers are flattered to be asked for advice,” he said. 

Tilton says his practice has ebbed and flowed based on his ability to take time away from his regular practice, and that SMRLS makes it very easy to volunteer. He also acknowledges that his law partner, George Dunn, has been very understanding about occasional absences and divided attention in service of pro bono clients. 

Individuals who have seen Tilton in action remark on his significant time investment in each case and client, his consistency, and the way he lives his values by putting time and energy towards causes he believes in. “I have been involved with the [Campaign for Legal Aid] for 31 years,” said Campaign member Steve Kirsch. “I have known Bill for almost all that time. He is one of the few SMRLS can always count on. He attends functions, he raises money, he generously donates money and is a wonderful citizen and human being. I have seen him with his clients, and he exhibits these same qualities to them. Kindness and generosity are in his genes.” 

Wendy Willson Legge

When Wendy Wilson Legge started volunteering at Volunteer Lawyers Network in 2018, she had retired but was still working part-time for the State. Since then, she has assisted over 750 clients, spending nearly 2,000 hours of her retirement working on cases for clients in need of pro bono representation. “Wendy stands out as a private bar volunteer because of the quality and tenacity of her lawyering,” said Muria Kruger, Housing Program Manager at Volunteer Lawyers Network. 

Willson Legge says her pro bono practice changed significantly during the pandemic and subsequent eviction moratorium. Her case load went virtual, allowing her to expand her practice area to Anoka County, and the moratorium meant that her work shifted primarily to rent escrow cases and eviction expungement. She has also been a particularly strong defender of victim survivors of abuse, getting cases that were maliciously filed by abusers dismissed and expunged in court. 

The bulk of Willson Legge’s work has been in landlord/tenant law. In 2022 alone, she spent 187 hours assisting 83 clients in Ramsey County’s housing court. She’s on track to top those numbers in 2023. “Unfortunately, there are many eviction cases where the law is simply not on the tenant’s side,” Willson Legge noted. “When I can help someone stay in their home, get repairs made, or get an eviction expunged, it is very rewarding. The clients are not used to having someone fight for them." 

“Wendy Wilson Legge went above and beyond to help me with my case,” said one client. “She took care of everything for me and lifted the burden off my shoulders. She is very smart, patient, caring, among other outstanding attributes, and I'll be forever grateful.” Elizabeth Kelly, a former staff attorney at VLN, added, “[Wendy] is an incredible lawyer. She comes up with creative legal arguments to help her clients and is also tenacious. When she takes a client, I am always confident that she will serve that client to the best of her ability and what the law allows.”