This week marks the National Pro Bono Celebration, a weeklong call to action for pro bono legal services and recognition of the lawyers around the country who devote countless hours to public service. In Vault's Associate Survey, we asked attorneys to rate their firms' commitment to pro bono work. Click through to see which firms received the highest scores, and what types of pro bono work they do. To see the full ranking, click here.
Stay tuned for the release of Vault's 2015 Guide to Law Firm Pro Bono Programs, complete with updated pro bono profiles for over 120 law firms!
“Akin Gump's focus on pro bono work was one of the things that drew me to the firm and this firm definitely walks the pro bono walk,” remarked a first-year associate. “Already in less than 6 months I have assisted in asylum proceedings for a Somali refugee, brought suit against the government on behalf of an individual whose privacy was violated, and helped a battered woman without legal immigration status move towards citizenship.” The KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) network of 125 free, open-enrollment charter schools is Akin Gump’s single largest pro bono client.
As one Ropes & Gray associate told us, “Associates are actively encouraged to take on pro bono matters and provided with endless resources—both internally, and externally—for mentorship.” Among recent accomplishments: In May 2014 Ropes & Gray helped score a major victory for the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The court held that conservation land used for charitable purposes could maintain tax-exempt status. The landmark decision, hailed by environmental advocates, ensures that land preservation efforts in the state will not be stifled by high tax bills.
With 100% of attorneys participating for the past 10 years, Patterson Belknap’s pro bono program is going strong. Among the firm’s many types of pro bono interests is human rights work. It has represented numerous prisoners on death row and has filed numerous amicus briefs concerning the U.S. government’s treatment of terrorism suspects. “The firm's commitment to pro bono is exceptional,” an associate told us. “Every attorney, associate and partner alike, is expected to make substantial contributions to pro bono matters. Pro bono work is truly valued by the partnership and is an important aspect of the firm's culture.”
Among Foley Hoag’s many pro bono accomplishments is its involvement in the fight for marriage equality. The firm partnered with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) to file a lawsuit seeking federal benefits for same-sex couples, which scored an early victory in the fight to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Pro bono accounts for approximately 5% percent, or 24,000 hours, of the firm’s work in a given year. “Associates are given full credit for the hours spent on pro bono work as though it were billable work,” one associate told Vault. “I have worked on a restraining order hearing for a domestic violence victim and a 1983 prisoners’ rights case so far.”
And the award for the Best Law Firm for Pro Bono goes to Squire Patton Boggs, a product of the June 2014 merger between Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders. The firm requires associates to perform 100 hours of pro bono per year at a minimum. For the past six years, Patton Boggs attorneys, now members of the merged firm, have dedicated hours of time to the development of the Conway Health and Resource Center in Washington, DC. The 50,000 square foot facility opened in February 2014 and provides medical and health services to residents in DC’s Bellevue neighborhood. One attorney told us: “Last year, the firm fully supported my efforts to become class counsel for a pro bono matter that requires approximately 300 hours of my time annually. Those hours are counted towards my billable requirement.”
The week marks the National Pro Bono Celebration--see which law firms ranked highest for pro bono commitment in Vault's annual associate survey.
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