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Pro Bono

Morgan Lewis: Raising the Bar for Pro Bono Service in 2016

From advocating for families desperately seeking asylum to achieving a landmark restitution award for a woman who was the victim of sex trafficking and fighting to ensure that Native Americans retained their right to vote in the 2016 elections, Morgan Lewis takes great pride in its pro bono work. In calendar year 2016, the firm donated nearly 13,000 hours to immigration representations alone. Our pro bono clients include more than 1,500 individuals and nonprofit organizations.

We treat pro bono hours as billable and expect each of our lawyers to take on at least one pro bono representation every fiscal year, with each lawyer contributing an average of more than 60 pro bono hours a year. Additionally, we are a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, pledging to spend at least 3% of our billable hours each year on pro bono matters. Our summer associates get valuable “real world” legal experience working on ongoing pro bono representations, with many choosing to spend up to four weeks of their summer at a legal services organization through the Community Experience Program.

The Morgan Lewis pro bono practice consists of five pro bono practice areas: immigration, transactional, families and kids, public benefits, and civil rights. We represent hundreds of clients in each practice.

Recent Highlights

  • Obtaining a Life-changing asylum victory for a family from Syria. Our pro bono work resulted in a life changing asylum victory for a family from the Damascus suburbs of Syria, an area outside the Syrian capital city that has been at the center of the civil war and subject to continuous attack by the Syrian government. 
  • Helping a sex trafficking victim win landmark restitution award. Lawyers in our Houston office worked with Tahirih Justice Center on a groundbreaking matter that resulted in a landmark restitution award for a victim of sex trafficking.  In one of the most significant United States trafficking trials to date, we were retained to represent a victim of sex trafficking who was called to testify against the matriarch of the very large trafficking ring that had smuggled her into the United States. 
  • Securing a voice for Native Americans in the 2016 Elections. Morgan Lewis leads a legal team, including the Native American Rights Fund, challenging North Dakota’s new voter identification laws under the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. and North Dakota Constitutions on behalf of seven Native American voters. 
  • Investigation bias in the San Francisco Police Department. Morgan Lewis supported the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement in the release of its final report on July 11, detailing a yearlong investigation into issues of potential bias in the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). The panel, composed of three volunteer former judges, was tasked with investigating potential institutionalized bias in the department in the wake of revelations that 14 officers had exchanged numerous racist and homophobic text messages.  Our team reviewed policies around the use of force and office-involved shootings, interviewed former officers, witnesses, community leaders and use-of-force experts and conducted other due diligence regarding the use of force by law enforcement
  • California trans prisoner gets surgery. In 2016, Morgan Lewis and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) continued our pro bono representation on behalf of a transgender California inmate suing the prison system to receive medically necessary sexual reassignment surgery.

Pro Bono Accolades

  • Top 10, International Pro Bono Survey, The American Lawyer (2016)
  • Top 50, Top Firms for US Pro Bono, The American Lawyer (2015-2016)
  • Community Partner Award for Pro Bono Legal Services, Bridge Way School, Philadelphia (2016)
  • Law Firm Pro Bono Award, Public Counsel (2015)
  • Pro Bono Firm of the Year, Benchmark Litigation (2015)
  • Highly Commended, Innovation in Social Responsibility: Projects, The Financial Times North America Innovative Lawyers Report (2016), recognized for role as principal pro bono outside counsel in the creation of Habitat for Humanity’s Microbuild
  • Chairpersons’ Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (2016)
  • Law Firm of the Year, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, San Francisco (2016)
  • Certificate of Appreciation, United Way of Russia (2016)
  • Winner, Gold Award for Pro Bono Service, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (2016)
  • Chicago Office Recognized, Pro Bono Recognition Roster, Public Interest Law Initiative (2013-2016)
  • Guardians of Justice Award, The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County (2015)
  • Corporate Courage Award, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (2015)
  • Los Angeles Office Honored, Bet Tzedek Pro Bono Justice Award, Bet Tzedek (2014)
  • Law Firm of the Year, AIDS Legal Referral Panel (2014, 2016)
  • Access to Finance Award, Recognized for Pro Bono Counsel in Development of Habitat for Humanity’s Microfinancing Fund, Overseas Private Investment Corp. (2016)
  • Certificate of Appreciation, United Way of Russia (2014-2016)
  • No. 29, Pro Bono by Breadth of Commitment, The American Lawyer (2015)
  • No. 61, Pro Bono by Average Hours, The American Lawyer (2015)
  • Exceptional Service Award, American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project (2013)

Diversity & Inclusion

While diversity in the legal profession has improved over the last several years, much work remains. We know all too well that the representation of lawyers of color, women, and LGBT equity partners remains low and progress has been incremental.

Under the leadership of Kenneth Imo, the firm’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Morgan Lewis works tirelessly to improve diversity and inclusion through active leadership involvement, targeted recruiting, client and community engagement, and career development programs.  The year 2016, and thus far in 2017, are shaping up to be pivotal years for Morgan Lewis in terms of advancing racial, ethnic, gender and LGBT diversity through implementation of numerous internal and external initiatives. One example is the firm’s Implicit Bias Training Program, which we are rolling out to all US partners.  The training raises awareness of our biases and provides practical tools to address them.  Morgan Lewis was in the vanguard of developing these programs, which are now modeled in much of corporate America as essential onboarding and leadership planning.

Our Diversity & Inclusion Successes and Honors

  • Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality, 100% rating, Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index (2009–2017)
  • Gold Standard Certification, Women in Law Empowerment Forum (2015, 2016, and 2017)
  • Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Legal Excellence Awards, Nationwide Mutual Insurance (2016)
  • Top 70 Firm, Women in Law Scorecard, The National Law Journal (2016)
  • Top 70 Firm, Global 200, Percentage of Female Partners, The Lawyer (2016)
  • Top 100, Diversity Scorecard, The American Lawyer (2016)
  • No. 2, Diversity Scorecard, Most Minority Attorneys by Total Attorneys, The American Lawyer (2015)
  • Morgan Lewis, shortlisted by Chambers & Partners Women in Law Awards for "Law Firm of the Year in Promoting Flexible Working Environments and Innovative Programs for Mothers" (2017)
  • Chair Jami McKeon shortlisted by Chambers & Partners Women in Law Awards for "Inspiring Role Model in Promoting Gender Diversity in the Legal Profession" (2017)