2013 Pickering Award Winner

Alston & Bird

The Pro Bono Institute, in conjunction with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and the Pickering family, is proud to present the 2013 John H. Pickering Award to Alston & Bird, in recognition of its outstanding institutional commitment to pro bono legal services and the inspiring and creative pro bono performance and leadership of its lawyers and staff. Pro bono lies at the intersection of passion, talent, and commitment to justice at the firm which encourages all of its attorneys and staff to become involved in pro bono work. The firm’s pioneering approaches and pro bono projects have served as models domestically and abroad.

In addition to providing access to justice to those who would otherwise be excluded or unrepresented, Alston & Bird, a Signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, develops impact projects designed to bring about large-scale, systemic change. Alston & Bird attorneys and staff work on a broad range of pro bono projects, making both a local and global impact. Ongoing projects include serving as advocates for children, representing parents in civil actions seeking the return of a wrongfully removed child, transactional projects designed to address societal and financial problems, assisting with the expungement of criminal records, estate planning, and representing individuals seeking guardianship to care for a relative.

The firm took a leadership role to mitigate the impact of the economic downturn on its nonprofit partners. For example, when the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, a major nonprofit legal services provider, was forced to cut its Wills Project in 2011 due to loss of funding, Alston & Bird immediately “adopted” the Project to cover the resulting needs gap. Since July 2012, volunteer attorneys and paralegals have provided end-of-life documents and peace of mind for low-income individuals.

A hallmark of Alston & Bird’s pro bono program is the ability of firm leaders to identify unmet needs and craft and implement meaningful solutions. For example, since its founding in 1991 by Alston & Bird’s Terry Walsh (a former Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee member), the Truancy Intervention Project (TIP) has been one of the firm’s most broad-reaching and continuous efforts. TIP, which now attracts volunteers from a number of Atlanta law firms and legal departments, trains both attorney and non-attorney volunteers to provide positive early intervention and legal representation to children who are chronically absent or tardy and thus at risk for school failure. TIP has been replicated in other parts of the country, and in 2009, the firm launched D.C. TIP in partnership with District of Columbia Public Schools.

Alston & Bird attorneys have long been advocates for immigrants’ rights, particularly in working with the Capitol Area Immigration Rights Coalition and Ayuda. Building on the efforts in Washington, D.C., volunteer attorneys and staff in Atlanta recognized an unmet need in assisting individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. In 2004, a volunteer effort was formalized into what is now the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network. Firm-wide volunteer attorneys represent asylum seekers and unaccompanied minor children and assist immigrant victims of human trafficking and domestic violence in obtaining permanent status or other forms of relief.

Alston & Bird devised another pro bono innovation in 2009 when it partnered with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society to provide administrative support to maintain a critical legal service. The Georgia Senior Legal Hotline, which focuses on low-income and rural-dwelling senior citizens with unmet legal needs, needed administrative support, and the firm deployed its receptionists to return calls and enter data into a database. Alston & Bird’s assistance, which the firm continues to provide, has allowed Legal Aid attorneys to handle an average of 500 more cases annually.