Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Pro Bono Institute (PBI), in conjunction with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and the Pickering family, is honored to present the 2014 John H. Pickering Award to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for its outstanding commitment to pro bono and public service. At Skadden, commitment to public service is one of the firm’s core values, and the firm strongly encourages all lawyers, summer associates, legal assistants, and support staff to provide assistance to those to whom the legal system would otherwise be inaccessible.
As a Charter Signatory to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, Skadden pledged that in its U.S. offices, hours spent on pro bono matters would be at least 3 percent of total domestic office billable hours. In 2013, the firm dedicated time equaling 5.3 percent of its billable time, and in the past six years, its lawyers have dedicated more than 1 million hours to pro bono service.
Skadden’s pro bono program is underscored by unprecedented innovation. One such example is the development of Skadden’s Impact Projects across many of its offices that focus on increasing the positive effect of pro bono work on the communities in which the firm’s lawyers live and work. The projects include: its original Impact Project in the Washington, D.C., office that already has assisted more than 200 individuals in 18 months with guardianship, housing, and domestic violence issues; the Palo Alto Impact Project that is teaching high school students about their rights related to sexualized violence; the multiple New York office projects that include work focused on assisting unaccompanied immigrant youth, developing nonprofits and small businesses, and helping low-income clients with estate planning; and projects in Skadden’s London office, focused on assisting women who are victims of domestic violence and helping individuals with all aspects of welfare benefits. To achieve the greatest impact possible, Skadden lawyers are partnering with legal services organizations and, increasingly, with corporate clients.
Skadden attorneys worldwide utilize the firm’s vast resources to handle a diverse range of projects, including immigration and asylum; nonprofit incorporation, tax exemption and governance; civil litigation; administrative hearings; life planning; criminal matters; community development; veterans’ issues; and cases involving domestic violence survivors.
For more than two decades, asylum cases have been a significant part of Skadden’s pro bono program. Under the leadership of the late Steven J. Kolleeny, former Skadden Special Counsel, lawyers across the firm’s offices and practices have provided counsel to refugees from around the world, frequently representing individuals seeking protection from religious and political persecution, torture, gang violence, and brutal cultural traditions directed toward women. In recent months, Skadden teams successfully represented and obtained asylum for a homosexual man from El Salvador who had been detained for months after arriving in the U.S. and, separately, for a Columbian man who suffered harassment and physical abuse due to his outspoken position against a political party, as well as for clients with varying claims from Jamaica, Russia, Sudan, Tibet, Uzbekistan, and several other countries.
In addition to being a pioneer in impactful pro bono, Skadden leadership consistently has developed new and creative ways to strengthen the firm’s public interest law initiatives. In commemoration of the firm’s 40th anniversary, the firm established the Skadden Fellowship Program, which provides funding, experience, salary, and benefits for two years to graduating law students who wish to dedicate their professional lives to providing legal services to the underserved. In a continuing effort to supportthis innovative program and the work of the Skadden Fellows, the “Flom Incubator Grants” were created in 2011 to award grants of up to $10,000 to support novel projects undertaken by former Skadden Fellows. These grants were made possible by a generous testamentary gift in the will of Joseph H. Flom, the last surviving of the firm’s named partners. Mr. Flom was the original impetus behind the creation of what became the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. These grants were supplemented with significant donations in Mr. Flom’s memory by Skadden partners and others in the community. Skadden lawyers work on many pro bono matters at the request of or as co-counsel with present and former Skadden Fellows, and since the inception of the program, nearly 90 percent of the Fellows have remained in public interest work. Skadden also has had established externship programs for more than two decades at the Legal Aid Society in New York and Washington, D.C., and the Lawyers Alliance for New York. The externships work on a rotating basis with each associate spending at least four months at one of these organizations.
Skadden is dedicated to serving communities in need, even outside of the firm’s pro bono endeavors. When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012, Skadden did not hesitate to offer assistance. The basement of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (NYCLU) Manhattan office was flooded, which knocked out the building’s elevators, electricity, and phones. Skadden immediately set up a temporary headquarters for all of NYCLU’s employees in the firm’s Times Square offices. As Hurricane Sandy hit shortly before the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the firm eventually became a central hub for many other nonprofits in need of space, including New York Legal Assistance Group, Legal Aid, and part of ACLU’s national office, all of which were in dire need of assistance as they were providing election-related services.
On a global level, Skadden has participated in creating or advancing new public interest frameworks for law firms in regions where government-paid lawyers traditionally provided pro bono services or where pro bono service was prohibited. Among the key organizational efforts in which Skadden lawyers have participated are the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Center and PILnet’s European forums. Additionally, the firm’s worldwide pro bono coordinator played an important role in developing and editing PILnet’s upcoming and revised Pro Bono Handbook: A Guide to Establishing a Pro Bono Program at Your Law Firm.