2011 John H. Pickering Award Winner
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Advancing the legal profession’s commitment to donating services pro bono publico–for the public good—has been at the core of Morrison & Foerster’s mission since firm founder Alexander F. Morrison assisted in the creation of the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco in 1916. In 1991, Bob Raven, a former Chair of the firm, convened the first American Bar Association meeting of large law firm leaders on pro bono work, a meeting that ultimately led to the creation of what is now the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®. Morrison & Foerster was instrumental to the development of the Challenge, and is a charter Signatory firm.
This proud pro bono tradition is lived out every day in Morrison & Foerster’s 15 offices worldwide. Every lawyer in the firm is strongly encouraged to take on at least one pro bono matter each year. The pro bono program enables lawyers at all levels and in all practices to bring pro bono projects to the firm, while also smoothing the way for them to participate in established legal services initiatives.
This commitment has tangible results. In 2010, the firm’s 1,000 attorneys logged more than 95,000 hours of pro bono legal services, and they have continued at the same pace in 2011. Recent pro bono litigation achievements include rulings from the Supreme Court of the United States that protect juveniles from being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for non-homicide offenses and that strengthen the ability of state protection and advocacy agencies to investigate the abuse or neglect of people with disabilities in state institutions. Children who attend the lowest-performing Los Angeles public schools are now protected from repeated rounds of teacher layoffs thanks to another suit filed by Morrison & Foerster. The firm’s human rights work includes individual advocacy and law reform initiatives for women and girls in Haiti who are subject to an epidemic of sexual violence in post-earthquake encampments. On the criminal justice front, the firm recently won freedom for a man who had spent 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The firm’s business attorneys provide counsel to hundreds of nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and abroad each year, with recent projects that range from facilitating the establishment of the first public library in Rwanda, to enlarging a Hudson River land trust, to creating a safe corridor for wild animals in Kenya.
“The breadth of pro bono work enriches our lawyers’ skills and their lives, and we are grateful to the Pro Bono Institute for recognizing our contributions,” said Keith Wetmore, Chair of Morrison & Foerster. “But most of all, we appreciate the opportunity to satisfy our duty to the communities we serve by giving every one of our pro bono clients our professional best, using the law to make their lives better.”
2011 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award Winners
Verizon Communications Inc. and DLA Piper LLP
Corporate Pro Bono is proud to present the 2011 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to the legal department of Verizon Communications Inc. in partnership with DLA Piper LLP for their collaborative effort to take on multiple pro bono projects in various areas of law while providing training and other pro bono resources for attorneys.
Verizon and DLA Piper’s partnership has exemplified the spirit of collaboration between corporate legal departments and large law firms that CPBO strives to promote. CPBO strongly endorses Verizon and DLA Piper’s commitment to this program as a long-term pro bono partnership.
Since the partnership’s inception in November 2009, Verizon has seen more than half of its legal department participate in the program, with about 200 attorneys participating in 2011. More than 25 percent of attorneys are involved in multiple pro bono matters. Verizon and DLA Piper attorneys are co-counseling on more than three-dozen pro bono matters, with new matters being added regularly. The partnership has focused on veterans’ disability matters, domestic violence, special education, and assisting nonprofits. Verizon and DLA Piper have hosted trainings for their attorneys in ethics, education, veterans work, domestic violence and counseling nonprofits, many of which are broadcast to their offices across the country.
Verizon and DLA Piper have partnered with the National Veterans Legal Services Program to assist veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Under the program, more than 30 Verizon attorneys have helped veterans apply for Combat Related Special Compensation, a special benefit for veterans who were injured during hazardous duty. Both organizations also worked with CPBO for two Clinic-in-a-BoxSM events in Arlington, Va., and Basking Ridge, N.J. During those clinics, more than two-dozen nonprofits received legal check-ups, with some receiving ongoing representation. Verizon and DLA Piper also partnered with My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence advocacy nonprofit, to assist seven clients in the New York area with applying for U visas. In other parts of the county, lawyers have partnered with other nonprofits to help immigrant survivors of domestic violence apply for U visas or petition under the Violence Against Women Act. They have also trained more than 20 attorneys on handling U visa cases. More clinics are planned for future dates.
Starting in September 2011, Verizon and DLA Piper jointly sponsored Equal Justice Works Fellow Leeja Patel. Leeja’s project is housed at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach in San Francisco and focuses on combating domestic violence in the South Asian community.
Most notably, Verizon and DLA Piper, with the assistance of Corporate Pro Bono, worked to change multijurisdictional practice rules that placed burdensome restrictions on corporate attorneys looking to do pro bono in Virginia. Thanks to their hard work, the restrictions were removed in April of this year. Verizon and DLA Piper marked the change by staffing a Wills on Wheels Clinic with the Fairfax County Bar Association in May. Under the program, attorneys prepared end-of-life documents for seniors in need.
DLA Piper has demonstrated a strong commitment to pro bono service, both in the U.S. and throughout the globe. Domestically, the firm organizes its pro bono efforts around Signature Projects designed to commit significant resources to tackle systematic issues. Through New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s non-profit affiliate dedicated exclusively to international pro bono work, the firm addresses critical issues in developing and post-conflict countries around the world.
Corporate Pro Bono congratulates Verizon and DLA Piper for their important efforts.