Pro Bono Institute (PBI), in conjunction with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr*† and the Pickering family, is proud to present its 2016 John H. Pickering Award to White & Case in recognition of its outstanding institutional commitment to pro bono and the inspiring pro bono performance of its lawyers and staff.
White & Case, a member of PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project and a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, has been a leader in pro bono since the firm was founded in 1901. The visible pro bono dedication of the firm’s founders, DuPratt White and George Case, endures to this day. In 2010, the firm established pro bono as one of its 14 global practice groups, allowing White & Case to work as one firm across all 39 offices to promote access to justice, advance the rule of law, and assist the world’s leading non-governmental organizations.
In recent years, White & Case has pushed beyond traditional pro bono to conduct innovative cross-border legal research to advance the rule of law. These efforts have resulted in improved laws that protect the vulnerable and provide more effective solutions to longstanding global problems.
For example, more than 200 White & Case lawyers in 27 offices helped create the first worldwide, online database of human trafficking cases on behalf of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The firm’s legal research is helping many of the 163 countries that were studied address extremely low rates of human trafficking prosecutions. White & Case has successfully coordinated other projects of this scale, such as conducting transformative legal research for the NGOs Child’s Rights International Network and End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. The firm’s work for the Visayan Forum Foundation was used to negotiate a landmark law in the Philippines – the so-called Magna Carta for Domestic Workers – which secured legal protections and welfare benefits for approximately 2 million people.
White & Case is also uniquely positioned to offer cross-border corporate expertise on pro bono matters. For example, the firm has worked for Conservation International on seven pioneering “debt-for-nature swaps,” which reduce sovereign debt payments to the U.S. in exchange for environmental conservation in the debtor country. Since 2006, White & Case has handled $200 million in such swaps, protecting endangered habitats in Indonesia, Costa Rica, and Jamaica.
And the firm remains committed to providing direct representation to underserved populations and marginalized groups. For example, White & Case played a pivotal role in challenging the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited openly gay people from serving in the armed forces. After nearly six years of litigation on behalf of the Log Cabin Republicans, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was struck down by California’s Federal District Court and signed out of law by President Obama.
Each year, White & Case handles a significant docket of criminal appeals and civil matters for the indigent, while working on justice reform issues in the U.S., such as clemency, bail reform, challenges to modern-day debtors’ prisons, improvements in prison conditions, and post-incarceration re-entry assistance. The firm recently won a major case to prohibit the use of cameras in the lawyer-client interview rooms of a new prison, which would have severely undercut attorney-client privilege.
Reflecting its longstanding commitment to death penalty advocacy, in 2015 White & Case undertook an emergency representation of a Texas prisoner whose execution was imminent. The team successfully halted the execution pending DNA testing of evidence, and remains committed to this representation through ongoing DNA testing. White & Case currently has involvement in three other active death penalty cases.
The firm’s dedication to pro bono service and its willingness to pursue challenging, innovative, and ambitious matters make White & Case a most deserving recipient of PBI’s 2016 John H. Pickering Award.
About White & Case
White & Case is a truly global law firm, uniquely positioned to help our clients achieve their ambitions in today’s G20 world. As a pioneering international law firm, our cross-border experience and diverse team of local, U.S. and English-qualified lawyers consistently deliver results for our clients.
In both established and emerging markets, our lawyers are integral, long-standing members of the community, giving our clients insights into the local business environment alongside our experience in multiple jurisdictions. We work with some of the world’s most respected and well-established banks and businesses, as well as start-up visionaries, governments and state-owned entities.
About the John H. Pickering Award
John H. Pickering, a founding partner of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr (now WilmerHale), was a distinguished appellate lawyer and a leader of the legal profession who was well known for his extraordinary commitment to pro bono and public service. He served on Pro Bono Institute’s (PBI) Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee from its inception. This award is given annually to a major law firm that embodies Mr. Pickering’s spirit of service and the exceptional culture of pro bono service he worked to imbue in his firm.
Mr. Pickering was a key framer of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® who, at the time of its launch, convinced his dear friend, Associate Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, to send a personal letter to the leaders of each of the nation’s 500 largest law firms urging that they sign on to the Challenge. Justice Brennan, despite his failing health, then accompanied Mr. Pickering to the formal ceremony where the Challenge was announced to underscore his support for the Challenge and his affection and respect for Mr. Pickering.
In 2000, Mr. Pickering was the recipient of PBI’s annual Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award, presented at the Supreme Court of the United States. At that event, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described Mr. Pickering as “a true Prince of our Profession.” She further elaborated on his pro bono accomplishments by noting that:
[A]t every stage of his career, John has demonstrated his special skill — to use the law to make things more than a little better. The man we celebrate this evening has received scores of accolades, for he is both a devoted public servant and Washington lawyer…[.] John spoke some years ago of the Justice he served in his youth, Justice Murphy, in the Court’s 1941 and 1942 terms. The words John then used fit John himself so perfectly, I cannot do better than to borrow them: His hands — John’s hands — are filled with acts of kindness.
PBI is proud to present this award in John Pickering’s name, in conjunction with his esteemed law firm and the Pickering family, to celebrate his devotion and to recognize outstanding commitment to pro bono legal service.