Miami lawyer and Executive Director Emeritus of Legal Services of Greater Miami Marcia Cypen has been selected to receive The Florida Bar Foundation’s Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award.
The award is named for the Foundation’s first executive director, recognizing individuals who, over their careers, have achieved meaningful, effective and lasting increases in access to civil justice for the poor in Florida.
Cypen joined Legal Services of Greater Miami in 1974 as a law clerk and was hired as a staff attorney two years later. She began serving as executive director in 1983, leading the organization as the largest provider of broad-based civil legal services for the poor in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties for the next 30 years.
“Marcia is the rare individual who not only combines compassion for the poor and vulnerable members of our community with legal skill, but she is also an excellent business woman and manager,” wrote Monica Vigues-Pitan, executive director of Legal Services of Greater Miami, in her nomination letter. “While weathering the constant ups and downs of funding and regulations, Marcia’s leadership resulted in Legal Services of Greater Miami becoming a strong institution which will endure well into the future.”
Cypen oversaw a 60-member staff, including more than 25 attorneys, who served 20,000 people a year, resolving the daily legal problems of low income, vulnerable residents. She challenged issues from Medicaid cutbacks to home care benefit cuts for the elderly, like the case she won for a 73-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease who was denied benefits because of where he lived. Her vision resulted in one of the first community economic development departments in a legal services program. She also developed innovative programs for veterans, disabled children, people with AIDS, homeless people, ex-prisoners and low wage workers. Under her leadership, Legal Services of Greater Miami established online intake available in multiple languages, a disaster legal assistance unit in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, and most recently a foundation.
The Jane Elizabeth Curran Distinguished Service Award, which is sponsored by Akerman LLP, will be presented at The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek June 14 during The Florida Bar Foundation’s Forty-Second Annual Reception and Dinner.