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November/December 2011 Volunteer Feature: Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman Presides Over The Legal Aid Society’s 2011 Pro Bono Awards

Thursday, December 15, 2011

  • Organization: The Legal Aid Society

On November 9th the Society’s 2011 Pro Bono Awards Ceremony, held at Espace, honored 328 leading pro bono lawyers along with 43 law firms, and one corporation for their outstanding pro bono services with The Legal Aid Society. This select group of professionals was nominated from the record-setting participation of more than 3,400 attorneys and other legal staff – primarily from New York’s leading law firms and corporate departments - who handled more than 6,500 matters on behalf of our clients.

The volunteers and their firms were recognized for legal excellence in handling administrative hearings, trials, appeals, class actions, and transactional cases on behalf of senior citizens, children and adults with disabilities, domestic violence survivors, immigrants facing deportation, homeless children and adults, inmates in correctional facilities, and other vulnerable low-income New Yorkers. The outpouring of pro bono assistance added another distinguished chapter to the135 year pro bono partnership between The Legal Aid Society and the private bar to secure fundamental legal rights of low-income New Yorkers in critical need of counsel but unable to afford it.

New York State’s Chief Judge presided over the ceremony, honoring recipients with the presentation of their awards. Chief Judge Lippman praised the New York Bar for its stalwart pro bono commitment.

In addition to individual awards, a number of law firms were highlighted for specific projects. The Pro Bono Honor Roll lists all of the law firms recognized for their outstanding commitment to the cause of equal justice.

Shearman & Sterling LLP
was the recipient of the 2011 Pro Bono Publico and Public Service Law Firm Award for its extraordinary pro bono commitment to The Legal Aid Society and its clients. Shearman is an exemplary pro bono partner, serving as co-counsel on a significant lawsuit on behalf of low-income workers, instituting an innovative law firm/corporate pro bono project to address the unmet legal needs of adults and children with disabilities, developing a unique public benefits advocacy program to represent public assistance recipients at Fair Hearings, and providing outstanding appellate counsel for adults accused of criminal behavior. The firm also has handled a variety of civil legal matters and has provided translation support to the Society’s three Practices: Civil, Criminal, and Juvenile Rights.

In a major federal class action affecting the rights of low-income employees, a legal team from Shearman & Sterling is working with the Civil Practice’s Employment Law Unit to address a pizza franchise’s systemic failure to pay its delivery workers wages due them and to comply with State and federal labor laws. Coordinated by Pro Bono Director Saralyn Cohen and Denise Karamian, the firm has partnered with Credit Suisse, to establish a Supplemental Social Security Income Waiver Clinic, which assists individuals with disabilities who are threatened with loss of crucial benefits due to alleged overpayments. This unique law firm/corporate pro bono project has contributed more than 1,500 hours of legal assistance on behalf of this vulnerable population, enabling them to maintain an independent, modest lifestyle despite their disability. Credit Suisse is recognized separately for its pro bono work. In addition, lawyers from the firm worked with the Criminal Appeals Bureau and the Criminal Defense Practice, spearheading an investigation into the wrongful conviction of a man who has spent 20 years in prison. Their efforts resulted in the vacatur of the conviction on grounds of newly discovered evidence and the client’s eventual release.

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