Meet Our 2012 Annual Dinner Award Winners

2012 John H. Pickering Award Recipient
Latham & Watkins LLP

Pro bono is deeply integrated into Latham & Watkins’s culture and ethos. The firm’s pro bono program spans the globe, reaching beyond the borders of the U.S. and into issues of global importance. As a Signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, Latham has committed to provide, at a minimum, the equivalent of 60 hours per U.S. lawyer each year in pro bono legal services. The firm likewise encourages its attorneys in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to strive to meet this goal.

In 2011, with more than 1,900 lawyers, paralegals, summer associates, trainees and professional staff in 28 offices across 13 countries participating in its pro bono program, Latham provided more than 173,000 hours of free legal services. Over the past decade, Latham has provided more than 1.8 million pro bono hours to the disadvantaged and the nonprofit sector.

Latham’s pro bono practice is characterized by its depth and diversity and an emphasis on helping persons of limited means. For example, over the last decade, lawyers in the firm’s Los Angeles office have represented families in the adoption of more than 800 children. In Chicago, Latham lawyers developed a clinic at the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse and have represented more than 100 domestic violence victims through the clinic. Since 2007, Latham has also been assisting Holocaust survivors in their efforts to seek reparations and pensions from the German government for work performed in Nazi-controlled ghettos, working with more than 400 clients across the U.S. in 2011 alone.

The firm also takes on impact projects aimed at bringing about large-scale change. Recent examples include work with Appleseed on a comprehensive investigation and report examining U.S. immigration courts and making recommendations for critical reform; research for The Constitution Project examining fusion centers and issuance of a report with recommendations to ensure their effective operation in line with civil liberties; and work on multiple fronts against human trafficking, including providing pro bono support to several prominent anti-trafficking organizations as well as the direct representation of trafficking victims.

In recent years, the firm has seen significant growth in its pro bono activity throughout its offices in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where Latham attorneys play an active role in cultivating the often nascent pro bono cultures in their jurisdictions. Their activity has included the provision of significant pro bono support to charities, nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs, and aiding organizations with regulatory research and analysis in areas such as poverty, human rights, microfinance and anti-human trafficking. Attorneys in Latham’s German offices, for example, have for several years been involved in a large-scale, multi-faceted project promoting inclusive education for disabled children. In addition, the firm, in partnership with PBI, recently released the fourth edition of their global pro bono publication surveying pro bono practices in more than 70 countries.

“Latham & Watkins thanks The Pro Bono Institute for its invaluable guidance and support over the years, and is deeply honored by this recognition,” said Latham Chairman and Managing Partner Robert M. Dell.  “Our firm’s commitment to pro bono is best reflected in the dedication, compassion and diligence our lawyers bring to each of the hundreds of pro bono matters we take on each year.  Our program and the results we achieve for our clients are a tremendous source of pride for everyone at our firm.”

2012 CPBO Partner Award Recipient
Ford Motor Company in Partnership with Dykema Gossett PLLC, Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc., and Michigan Community Resources

Corporate Pro Bono is proud to present the 2012 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to the Office of the General Counsel of Ford Motor Company in partnership with Dykema Gossett PLLC, Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. (LAD), and Michigan Community Resources (MCR) for their innovative and expanding needs-based partnerships in support of healthy families and nonprofit organizations.

In 2009, Ford revamped its pro bono program, focusing its efforts on community needs and how members of its department could use their skills to have the greatest impact on communities affected by the recession. In addition, the legal department sought to align its pro bono program with Ford’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to foster teamwork and ensure support. Out of this came two partnerships: the Food Stamp Clinic, with partner LAD, to assist needy individuals and families, and the Nonprofit Survival Series Clinics, with partners Dykema and MCR, to ensure the legal health of community-based, nonprofit organizations.

In March 2010, Ford collaborated with LAD to pilot a screening project designed to identify individuals and families who did not receive food stamps despite being eligible or received a lower benefit than that for which they qualified. In Detroit, more than one-third of the population lives in poverty, making it one of the poorest large cities in America, yet its citizens were underutilizing the food stamp program. Ford and its partners developed a plan to address a pressing need. At each clinic, Ford volunteers typically meet with 20 to 50 participants to determine the amount of assistance they are entitled to receive and, if eligible, apply for initial benefits or follow-up for increased benefits. To date, Ford volunteers have identified tens of thousands of dollars in benefits for clinic participants.

To ensure success, the Food Stamp Clinic implemented many innovative structures that recognize the needs of the community and support company morale. For example, the clinic volunteers meet the participants at schools, a community space that many participants with children already frequent and which is close to the participants’ homes. Ford hosts its clinics in conjunction with quarterly “Ford Accelerated Action Days,” a company-wide program during which Ford employees are encouraged to volunteer for an entire day. Moreover, the Ford Fund provides a grant to LAD to provide a hot breakfast, as well as gas and grocery gift cards to the participants.

The partnership has also worked to expand the scope of the clinic and has included new locations and partners. To serve the needs of a large Spanish-speaking population, the partnership included a school in a primarily Spanish-speaking community with the help of bilingual volunteers from the Ford Hispanic Network and Wayne State Law School. The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) has also become an active participant in the clinics and sends staff to help eligible participants secure their benefits. The success of these efforts has created a pathway for others to host similar clinics.

Addressing another significant need, Ford, Dykema and MCR developed and implemented the Nonprofit Survival Series Clinics to assess the legal health of nonprofit organizations, many of which face increased financial pressures. As communities experience an upswing in unemployment, poverty, and government budget cuts, the demand on nonprofits grows often while their funding is shrinking. At the clinics, Dykema attorneys train Ford volunteers on issues of concern to nonprofits. Ford volunteers then meet directly with senior management of the nonprofits to identify legal issues and discuss strategies for addressing them. The volunteers draft a report that highlights potential legal problems and offers strategies to deal with them so that the nonprofits can focus their time and resources on meeting the needs in the communities they serve.

The first clinic was held in May 2009. More than 41 percent of the attorneys in Ford’s Office of General Counsel have participated, several of whom have continued to provide ongoing counsel to the nonprofits beyond the clinic. The partnership also continues to grow and evolve. In March, Ford, Dykema, and MCR launched a Contract Review Clinic to respond to the growing needs of nonprofits in the community.

The Ford partnerships are shining examples of pro bono partnerships at their best – collaborative, community needs driven, client focused, and, not only sustained efforts, but constantly improving and expanding models for others. Corporate Pro Bono congratulates Ford, Dykema, LAD, and MCR for their forward thinking and valuable efforts to improve their community.