Pro Bono Institute (PBI), in conjunction with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and the Pickering family, is proud to present its 2021 John H. Pickering Award to O’Melveny & Myers LLP in recognition of its outstanding institutional commitment to pro bono and the inspiring pro bono performance of its lawyers and staff.
Pro Bono at O’Melveny
From the beginnings of the firm, O’Melveny has channeled the creativity and passion of its lawyers into public interest efforts. Founder Henry O’Melveny, a prominent civic leader in Los Angeles at the turn of the twentieth century, played a leadership role in multiple institutions that served the public good. His example guided scion Jack O’Melveny, who in 1929 helped found the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the oldest and largest provider of legal services in California.
The firm continues to build on that legacy.
O’Melveny’s robust and award-winning pro bono practice extends the firm’s commitment to exceptional client service to underrepresented members of society, tackling critical issues such as immigration, housing, women’s rights, foster care, education, veterans affairs, criminal justice reform, voting rights, and community building. O’Melveny’s pro bono clients—from military veterans to couples seeking marriage equality to nonprofits stitching together a social safety net—are as diverse as the communities the firm serves. And O’Melveny continues to challenge itself to do more.
Today the firm’s pro bono program operates under the leadership of a partner-in-charge of pro bono, a full-time managing counsel for public interest and pro bono services, and a full-time pro bono counsel, as well as designated pro bono partners in each office. To underscore O’Melveny’s commitment, all attorneys are encouraged to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono work annually, with a 20 hour minimum expectation, and all new lawyers are required to handle at least one pro bono engagement during their first year at the firm. Additionally, each pro bono hour is treated the same as “billable” hours for all purposes, including bonus consideration. In 2020, O’Melveny devoted approximately 99,062 hours to pro bono, with participation from over 94 percent of its attorneys.
Some of the firm’s recent achievements include:
- A milestone victory in Ramos v. Louisiana, persuading the U.S. Supreme Court that the Constitution requires a unanimous jury verdict for a criminal conviction. The decision overturned a long-standing, racially unjust precedent that allowed states to convict with the assent of only 10 of 12 jurors—a practice designed to silence the voices of minority Black jurors.
- An important victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, a high-profile matter testing the Court’s fidelity to its abortion-rights jurisprudence for the first time since the appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The victory protected women’s access to abortion across the country.
- A voter protection effort that included well over 100 O’Melveny attorneys ahead of the fraught 2020 presidential election. More than 80 O’Melveny lawyers helped staff the Election Protection national voter hotline. And more than 40 O’Melveny attorneys teamed with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund to monitor social media and local news outlets in Georgia and Florida to identify voter suppression efforts.
The firm’s dedication to pro bono service and its willingness to pursue challenging, innovative, and ambitious matters make O’Melveny a most deserving recipient of the PBI 2021 John H. Pickering Award.
Founded in 1885 as a two-person practice in Los Angeles, O’Melveny handled much of the seminal work supporting the city’s development into a major metropolis. In the years since, O’Melveny has emerged as an elite US firm with respect to pro bono and beyond. Its resources include approximately 750 lawyers in 17 offices around the world. The firm takes pride in its focus on culture, collaboration and community. More information on O’Melveny can be found on www.omm.com or learn more in their firm at-a-glance, annual report, and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.