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Law Firms Honored For Innovative Pro Bono Programs And Law Reform Litigation

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

  • Organization: The Legal Aid Society

In 2012, The Legal Aid Society recognized firms that made a significant pro bono commitment to expand access to justice for low-income New Yorkers.  These firms established programs that permitted their attorneys to contribute a substantial amount of time to the Society and its clients, created a law firm project under partner leadership that handled a significant caseload, and acted as co-counsel on major law reform class actions that benefit virtually the entire low-income population of two million children and adults in the City and have Statewide and national impact.

Cooley LLP; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Weil; and White & Case LLP either allocated a six-month extern or a third of at least one associate’s time over a nine-month period to partake in an innovative project that provided additional legal resources to assist The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense attorneys with their caseloads. 

Davis Polk made an extraordinary commitment in providing a high-level legal team to assist The Legal Aid Society in conducting innovative data research and investigation to assist in the implementation of the landmark State criminal defense case cap law to address the Criminal Practice’s excessive criminal defense caseloads, and in representing the Society in litigation to support the City’s indigent defense plan to assign the Society non-conflict and conflict cases. The firm was also recognized for its work as outstanding co-counsel in a lawsuit that seeks to prohibit unlawful arrests of people who possess small amounts of marijuana.


Davis Polk

Back Row from left:
Kahlil Williams, Theodore Polubinski, Nicholas Stabile, all  from Davis Polk LLP; Chief Judge Lippman, Richard Davis, Chair of the Board, and Blaine "Fin" Fogg, President, The Legal Aid Society,  Michael McGovern, Nicholas George, all  from Davis Polk LLP;  Richard Joselson, William Gibney, Ted Hausman, Lisa Freeman, all from The Legal Aid Society.
Front Row from left:
Tina Luongo, The Legal Aid Society; Nancy Ludmerer, Sharon Katz, Daniel Kolb, Lara Samet, all from Davis Polk LLP; David Crow, Karen Gutheil, Kim Forte, all from The Legal Aid Society


Cleary Gottlieb Stein & Hamilton LLP piloted a pro bono initiative to represent victims of human trafficking, providing counsel for ten victims who sought vacatur of prior prostitution convictions under a recently enacted New York law.

On the Civil side, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP developed a unique public housing tenant representation pro bono project to address the justice gap for low-income tenants. Led by firm partners and counsel, first year associates -- both corporate and litigation -- represented 25 individual clients.  More senior firm attorneys also contributed invaluable resources as co-counsel on actions to address systemic issues.  The firm was outstanding co-counsel with the Society on a class action that secured $110 million in rental assistance for ten months for 16,000 formerly homeless families and individuals in order to preserve their apartments when the City attempted to precipitously end the Advantage rent subsidy program.

Shearman & Sterling LLP and Credit Suisse were honored for their sustained staffing of a Supplemental Social Security Income 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 nearly 3,100 hours of legal assistance on behalf 57 clients, enabling them to maintain subsistence federal disability assistance.


Back Row from left:
Stuart Baskin, Shearman & Sterling LLP. Chief Judge Lippmam, Richard Davis, Chair of the Board, and Blaine "Fin" Fogg, President, Linda Rappaport, Saralyn Cohen, all from Shearman & Sterling LLP
Front Row from left:
Andrew Hutcher and Lauri Cohen of Credit Suisse; Anne Callagy of The Legal Aid Society


Debevoise & Plimpton LLP was recognized as outstanding pro bono co-counsel with the Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project to protect female inmates from sexual abuse. 

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was honored for providing excellent co-counsel representation in a class action lawsuit to stop unlawful police trespass arrests of both tenants and the guests of tenants in NYCHA housing developments. 

Cooley LLP was recognized for its exceptional work as co-counsel on a successful class action lawsuit that obtained past and prospective relief on behalf of more than 10,000 families with minor children who were wrongfully deprived of millions of dollars of public assistance.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP has provided exceptional co-counsel assistance in a disability discrimination case against the City seeking relief on behalf of 25,000 class members. 

In addition, a number of firms were honored for their work as co-counsel with the Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice.  Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP excelled as co-counsel in a successful class action that challenged the failure by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to provide appropriate and less restrictive foster care placements for children ready to be discharged from psychiatric hospitals.  Davis Polk served as co-counsel in another successful class action challenging the Administration of Children Services’ failure to ensure that children aging out of foster care have stable and adequate housing.  Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP was honored for its outstanding pro bono contributions as co-counsel on a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of children confined in upstate detention centers who are subjected to unconstitutional and excessive force by staff and are deprived of legally-required mental health services.


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