Law Firm Summer Associates Continue a Long Standing Tradition

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

  • The Legal Aid Society

For more than two decades, summer associates at New York City’s leading law firms, working with senior Legal Aid attorneys and supervising associates at their firms, have provided legal assistance to clients of The Legal Aid Society. The 2013 summer associate class worked on cases involving physically and/or mentally disabled low-income New Yorkers seeking Social Security Income Disability (“SSI”) benefits and preventing the eviction of New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) tenants. The Society’s 2013 program also featured summer associates who completed externships in specialized units in our Civil practice and who staffed the Society’s Access to Benefits (A2B) Helpline.

Summer associates from Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Dechert LLP, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, Kaye Scholer LLP, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, represented clients facing Social Security Disability hearings. Daniel Doobies, a Skadden summer associate, successfully advocated for disability benefits on behalf of an immigrant injured while at work. Daniel recounted his experience stating, “I had a fantastic and formative experience representing [my client] and working with Legal Aid. During the process, I gained a wealth of knowledge and developed valuable skills that I will use throughout my career. Nothing compares to securing a fully favorable decision for a deserving person. And as I continue practicing law, I will always carry this experience with me."

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP’s summer associates also represented clients in danger of losing their New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) Apartments. The summer associates faced a wide range of difficult issues, including an elderly NYCHA tenant of 26 years facing eviction because her daughter, who was not on the lease, was frequently visiting the home.

Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP associate Tara Garcia and summer associate Cooper Knowlton meeting with their client at the Society's Queens Neighborhood Office.

The Summer Associate Project’s high success rate results from outstanding supervision by Legal Aid staff and strong oversight by participating firms. On every assignment, a firm associate, usually one who previously has handled a similar case themselves, supervises the summer associate.

Prior to summer associates arriving at their firms, Legal Aid lawyers expand their intake of Social Security Disability and NYCHA cases that are likely to have hearings during the summer associates’ law firm tenure. In early June, Legal Aid disability and housing attorneys conduct a CLE training for the summer associates and their supervising associates. As in all Legal Aid pro bono referrals, each case is supervised by an experienced Legal Aid attorney. Anne Callagy, the City-Wide Co-Supervisor of the Society’s Disability Advocacy Project, has been instrumental in the program’s success. She finds that, “The Summer Associate Project is enormously beneficial for our clients. Every individual a summer associate represents is someone we otherwise would not have represented. When we are forced daily to turn away a significant number of people because of lack of resources, it is fantastic to be able to expand our practice every summer. It’s also wonderful to work with young people who are so enthusiastic and passionate about pro bono.”

Summer associates from a number of firms provided pro bono services to other client groups. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP continued a long-standing practice of placing two externs with the Society’s Community Development Project. Additionally, Fried Frank associate Samuel Mathias, a member of the Society’s New Leadership Program, supervised the firm’s summer associates who volunteered with Legal Aid’s Access to Benefits Helpline. Two Skadden IL Scholars, who each spent two weeks working with Society staff to assist callers on the A2B line, also staffed the A2B Helpline.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP associates and summers partnering with Legal Aid staff answering calls on the Society's Access to Benefits Helpline.

The Summer Associate Project is a special part of the Society’s pro bono program not only because it serves clients effectively but also because it underscores the value and importance of pro bono assistance at the outset of a future lawyer’s career. To get involved or to discuss opportunities for your firm’s 2014 summer associate class, please contact Emily Bormann, The Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Administrator, at