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by Rachel Marx Boufford | February 07, 2013


The 2013 edition of the Vault Guide to Law Firm Pro Bono Programs is now available! The guide features detailed information about the pro bono work that 126 top law firms across the country have engaged in over the past few years.

In many ways, the firms featured in the guide couldn’t be more different: they include international behemoths with offices across the globe and smaller boutiques with just one office; firms headquartered from New York to Texas to California; firms with over a century of history to their names and firms that were created in the new millennium.

Still, each of these firms shares a fundamental commitment to pro bono work. Many of the firms featured in the guide have devoted considerable resources to the fascinating—and often ground-breaking—work they have taken on. In so doing, these firms have created a culture of public service, in which great numbers of attorneys of all levels devote significant time to pro bono projects.

The Vault Guide to Law Firm Pro Bono Programs was developed to provide law students and lawyers with the information necessary to make an informed evaluation of firms’ pro bono cultures and activities. Pro bono coordinators and partners from each firm provided structural overviews, statistical data and substantive descriptions of their unique pro bono programs.

Below, you’ll find a few fascinating pro bono cases from some of the featured firms:

  • Mayer Brown's 7th Circuit Project is its signature pro bono appellate project, and since the project’s inception in spring 1999, the firm has accepted appointments in over 130 cases in such areas as habeas corpus, prisoner’s rights, and immigration. The firm also has an extensive pro bono Supreme Court practice and, in 2006, started a Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School.
  • In Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, a team from Morrison & Foerster won a federal district court ruling that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of same sex marriages, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court held that the long history of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation required applying heightened scrutiny to DOMA, which the statute failed, and further, that Section 3’s differential treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex married couples failed rational basis scrutiny. The ruling secured health benefits for the wife of Karen Golinski, a federal employee and client of Morrison & Foerster since 2008. The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to bypass circuit court review of this and a second ruling on DOMA and decide the appeals directly.
  • Teams of Orrick lawyers provided legal and technical assistance to the Public International Law & Policy Group, which supported government officials, policymakers and key stakeholders in Egypt to assist the client in furthering the democratic nation building in Egypt. PILPG began providing legal advice to civil society groups in Egypt soon after the 2011 uprising, which toppled the government of Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was known for his corrupt abuse of power, a leading factor in dissatisfaction among Egyptians. Initially, a senior Orrick team, led by two partners, prepared analysis on how the Egyptian Constitution could become more democratic, and later in the year, a team assisted PILPG in addressing problems with corruption and bribery in various sectors of governance and private sector activity through analysis regarding the international standards for anticorruption measures and how other states have implemented these standards into anticorruption legislation.
  • Paul Hastings advised the Intrepid Museum Foundation in its acquisition of Space Shuttle Enterprise from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was critical to learn NASA’s procedures and language, as well as the regulatory restrictions applicable to the transaction, in order to represent Intrepid effectively. The transaction was unique in that NASA is not in the business of de-accessioning its property. In addition to the legal landscape, the firm’s attorneys had to be sensitive to NASA’s emotional ties to its shuttles and the shuttle program with which many people have been involved for much or all of their careers. The attorneys also traveled with Intrepid to Florida to represent senior management in direct discussions with NASA and the other three shuttle recipients. After the discussions were concluded, the shuttle was flown to JFK airport on the back of NASA’s specially outfitted 747 aircraft, and then barged up the Hudson River to its new permanent home at the museum.
  • Together with the ACLU, Public Counsel and other pro bono organizations, Sullivan & Cromwell is actively litigating a class action on behalf of individuals, suffering from serious mental disabilities, who are detained by the Department of Homeland Security as part of their immigration proceedings, but are being compelled to represent themselves in their immigration proceedings, even after immigration court findings that these individuals are mentally incompetent.

Want to learn more about the pro bono programs at these and over one hundred other firms? Check out the Guide to Law Firm Pro Bono Programs! 

Note: If your school has access to Career Insider, you can download the guide free of charge through your school’s Career Insider site.


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