September 2012 Volunteer Feature: Shearman & Sterling LLP is the Law Firm Recipient of The New York Law Journal's Lawyers Who Lead by Example

Friday, September 28, 2012

  • NYC Pro Bono Center

Shearman & Sterling pro bono counsel and
director Saralyn Cohen, at left, with partners
Brian Polovoy and Linda Rappaport.


     Image by Rick Kopstein/New York Law Journal

Shearman & Sterling LLP, The Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center's nominee, was named the New York Law Journal's "Law Firm Honoree", citing the firm's "all-in" approach to pro bono. The firm's pro bono work ranges from freeing a Legal Aid Society client who was wrongly convicted of murder to assisting veterans in obtaining benefits through the City Bar Justice Center.

The firm's pro New York office, comprised of 340 attorneys, devoted more than 27,000 hours annually from 2009 through 2011, and had approximately 300 open pro bono matters in 2011.  Although Shearman requires its United States lawyers to devote 25 hours annually on pro bono, the New York attorneys go far beyond the minimum with more than 90 percent of the lawyers contributing an average of 64 pro bono hours per lawyer.

The Legal Aid Society's Nominee, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Recognized By The New York Law Journal As Lawyers That Lead By Example

Shearman's legal team devoted 2,954 hours to People v. Morillo, a complex Bronx criminal case in which Shearman teamed up with The Legal Aid Society to overturn the murder conviction of a man who had been incarcerated for 20 years. Shearman's legal team conducted an extensive investigation and obtained an admission from a single eyewitness that she had lied when she testified that from her fourth-floor apartment window in the Bronx she saw the defendant commit the crime. Elizabeth Felber, a supervising attorney with The Legal Aid Society, said, "Shearman stood out to me not just in the caliber of attorneys, but by the way they took this case very seriously." Litigation partner Brian Polovoy summed up the firm's pro bono commitment, saying, "There is a commitment from the top down to truly encourage pro bono and not simply as a recruiting device and not simply as a training device, but to be cognizant of our duty as lawyers to do pro bono."

The firm has also contributed substantial legal resources to the representation of low-income workers. Collaborating with The Legal Aid Society's Employment Unit, Shearman has committed lawyers at all levels of experience to litigate a class action lawsuit on behalf of current and former Domino's Pizza workers over alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York's Labor Law. These low-income workers, many of whom are not English speaking, claim that defendants paid less than the minimum wage, failed to pay overtime and failed to record all their work hours. The firm's comprehensive representation included the participation of corporate bankruptcy counsel when defendants filed bankruptcy papers.

Shearman & Sterling has been an exemplary pro bono partner with The Legal Aid Society, serving as outstanding co-counsel on the two highlighted cases, but also creating pro bono programs for low-income New Yorkers.  The firm instituted an innovative law firm/corporate pro bono project with Credit Suisse to address the unmet legal needs of adults and children with disabilities and developed a unique pubic benefits advocacy program to represent public assistance recipients at Fair Hearings. The Legal Aid Society was proud to nominate Shearman & Sterling for the "Lawyers That Lead by Example" award.

The City Bar Justice Center Recognizes Shearman & Sterling LLP for Their Contributions to Their Veterans Assistance Project

The City Bar Justice Center is delighted to nominate Shearman for the “Lawyers who Lead by Example” Award based on their commitment to its Veterans Assistance Project and the extraordinary work their attorneys have done on behalf of individual veterans seeking disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The City Bar Justice Center's Veteran's Assistance Project helps veterans and their families access disability pensions and compensation for service connected injuries. Shearman's approximately 120 attorneys have worked on 82 cases since the project inception five years ago, the most of any firm. "Their work is extraordinary," said Carol Bockner, director of pro bono initiatives at the City Bar. "They've taken really quite a leadership role in veteran's assistance in the city," she said." Terence Gilroy, a Shearman associate and former U.S. Army captain, has represented five clients through the project. "There was absolutely a need for some of these guys and girls [to receive] legal representation" and to navigate the Veterans Administration system, Gilroy said.

A recent win for a Shearman & Sterling veteran client came when a volunteer represented a Vietnam veteran who participated in some of the most deadly and bloody battles of the war.  Not surprisingly, the veteran suffers from PTSD and other injuries which have affected his quality of life greatly and have prevented him from holding a steady job.  The volunteer attorney helped the client appeal a denial of his benefits claim.  A decision was received recently and the volunteer attorney prevailed on all issues raised in the appeal.  The client’s monthly entitlement amount went from $421 to $2,924 with back payments to when the client originally filed his claim in 2008.  The client wrote to his volunteer attorney to say “how deeply grateful I am to you, as well as all members of your firm for their invaluable help in representing me pro bono during my lengthy struggle for combat related disability and un-employability benefits […] The VA’s recent decision of a full grant of the appeal on all issues is a significant victory for my family’s future which could not have been possible without the steadfast support and kindness of Shearman & Sterling.  Your support of my case and that of other needy War Veterans truly speaks highly of the fine character and values guiding your company.” The firm continues to work with the client on some additional claims.

Shearman & Sterling has consistently done high quality work for the Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project.  The number of attorneys at the firm who attend clinics and take on cases and the large number of veterans that Shearman & Sterling has helped and continues to help make the firm and its volunteers “lawyers who lead by example.”