We believe in giving back, and we want attorneys who have a passion for making a positive impact in the lives of others — in 2021, our attorneys and professional staff contributed more than 181,000 pro bono hours in support of our communities, and over the past 10 years, they have contributed more than two million hours. Considered on their own, those efforts would make Skadden one of the nation's leading pro bono service providers — in addition, of course, to being a pre-eminent law firm.
We embrace the idea that pro bono service is a personal endeavor, so we ask: How would you like to give back, and what can we do to make it happen?
Our approach to pro bono service can be summarized as this: If we see a void, we draw our resources together to fill it. It may sound simple, but when you take a group of Skadden lawyers and arm them with that philosophy, you get great results.
Sometimes our individual efforts add up to something bigger collectively, such as the number of hours we dedicate to pro bono matters each year. Occasionally, what we create becomes more far-reaching than we could have imagined, like the Skadden Fellowship Foundation.
Through it all, we embrace the idea that pro bono service is a personal endeavor. So, what issues do you think are important? Where and how would you like to give back? What can we do to make it happen?
Our pro bono work is diverse and far-reaching. It includes efforts related to immigration and asylum; nonprofit incorporation, tax exemption and operations; civil litigation; administrative hearings; life planning; criminal matters; community development; and LGBTQ+ issues, veterans’ issues and cases involving domestic violence survivors. Recent highlights include:
Skadden is proud to be a member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), a partnership of more than 300 law firms with legal services organizations to tackle systemic racism in the law. All 50 states are represented and member firms have offices in over 97 countries. The LFAA leverages the resources of the private bar in partnership with legal services organizations to amplify the voices of communities and individuals oppressed by racism, to better use the law as a vehicle for change that benefits communities of color and to promote racial equity in the law.
Immigration / In 2017, Skadden launched the Immigration Impact Project (IIP), a pro bono initiative utilizing virtual practice group models to drive efficiencies in the delivery of legal services to low-income immigrants. The goal was simple: streamline resources, technology and support and help more people. These resources make it easier for attorneys to take on their first immigration matter with the confidence that they are equipped to handle it, and they provide all attorneys and staff with quick access to the most up-to-date materials. Since the launch in November 2017, the firm has dramatically increased both the number of immigration pro bono matters and the types of matters. The IIP currently offers streamlined support on more than 18 types of immigration matters with the help of 30 advisory teams. Nearly 600 attorneys from 13 of Skadden’s global offices contributed more than 30,000 hours in 2021. Currently the firm has more than 500 cases open under this project. In 2021, the firm hired a full-time Pro Bono Immigration Attorney to help oversee the project.
Eviction Prevention / The pandemic has created innumerable challenges particularly for the most vulnerable populations and those facing housing insecurity. As eviction moratoriums end, thousands of New Yorkers are at risk of losing their homes. Skadden was the first firm to pilot remote (1) Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and (2) housing repair/eviction prevention clinics with Legal Services NYC (LSNYC). By participating in 10 housing clinics held throughout 2021, Skadden attorneys and professional staff assisted nearly 40 low-income families at risk of losing their homes. More than 60 Skadden volunteers contributed nearly 1,000 hours to these efforts. In addition to helping people through these remote, limited-scope clinics, Skadden attorneys are representing clients from the clinic obtain necessary repairs in their homes. Our housing repair/eviction prevention clinics with LSNYC will take place on a monthly basis in 2022. Several Skadden corporate clients have joined these efforts, allowing the clinics to assist even more people.
Wrongful Conviction / Attorneys at Skadden and Weil have been working with the Innocence Project since Fall 2015. The Innocence Project provides attorneys with intake forms that have been completed by defendants around the country. The attorneys are assigned specific cases to evaluate the involvement of DNA, which can exonerate those who were wrongly convicted. This evaluation, plus any additional materials utilized, is sent back to the Innocence Project, and they decide how to proceed with each case. The Skadden team is currently comprised of 245 attorneys across Skadden’s domestic, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Toronto and London offices. Attorneys at Skadden have completed 3,576 evaluations since the inception of the partnership and more than 64 attorneys completed over 320 evaluations in 2021.
Responsible Policing/Government Misconduct / Since November of 2016, attorneys and professional staff at Skadden have been staffing monthly limited scope legal clinics in collaboration with the Bronx Defenders (BxD) to provide legal support for victims of excessive force by the police and other government misconduct. For the past year and a half, Skadden volunteers have been working remotely in partnership with BxD's Civil Legal Advocates to conduct client interviews and file notices of claim on the clients' behalf. Since June 2020, which is when the Bronx Defenders resumed assistance with filing notices of claim in light of the pandemic, Skadden volunteers have handled 165 referrals as part of our continued support of their clinic. We receive these referrals on a rolling basis from the Bronx Defenders' Civil Action Practice. To date, our volunteers have filed over 450 NOCs.
Sexual and Cybercrimes / Legal Rights and Obligations: For more than eight years, attorneys in Skadden's Palo Alto and Los Angeles offices have collaborated with clients to go into middle and high school classrooms to provide students with an award-winning, interactive legal workshop. Drawing on recent court cases and news stories, “Know Your Rights and Know the Law: Sex, Bullying and Social Media" addresses students' legal rights and responsibilities in the realm of online communications, including laws governing cyber-crimes, hate crimes, hate speech, "sexting," "sextortion" and consent, among other timely and critical topics. Over the last several years, the attorneys pivoted to a fully virtual format and have continued to provide this important resource to students when young people are online more than ever before. We also have provided the program to Spanish-speaking teens utilizing concurrent live translation services. Over the years, Skadden attorney-participants have trained their counterparts at approximately 20 client companies, often teaming up to co-present the program in the classrooms or remotely. Tens of thousands of California students have benefited from Know Your Rights and Know the Law, with many students reporting back that they had previously given little thought to the legal ramifications of their online behavior. Know Your Rights and Know the Law, which has won several awards, including a Community Impact Award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal, was developed in collaboration with several non-profits, including Legal Advocates for Children & Youth and Legal Services for Children, after a thoughtful analysis of how Skadden could leverage the skills of our attorneys to make an impact in the community.
Every year, our summer associates contribute thousands of hours of pro bono service, and when they rejoin the firm as attorneys, there is no limit to the impact they can have, making communities stronger and pro bono clients' lives better. Nearly all of our summer associates work on pro bono matters.
What do you care about? Our summer associates and attorneys work on pro bono matters involving asylum, incorporation of nonprofits, access to health care for disabled children, the environment, reproductive rights, the death penalty, victims of domestic violence and countless other causes.
Skadden is consistently recognized for its commitment to pro bono service. Recent recognitions include:
- In Thomson Reuters’ TrustLaw 2020 Index of Pro Bono, which measures the number of pro bono hours practiced by law firms across the world, Skadden ranked the highest for Average Hours per Fee Earner in England and Wales and second- highest in the United States. The index collected data from over 215 firms.
- Skadden received the Innovations in Pro Bono Award from Law.com and Legaltech News as part of the 2021 Legalweek Leaders in Tech Awards, which celebrate “the achievements of lawyers and companies leading technology, innovation and the profession as a whole.” The award recognized the Firm’s Immigration Impact Project, a pro bono initiative utilizing a virtual practice group model to drive efficiencies in the delivery of legal services to low-income immigrants.
- Skadden placed second among all L.A. firms competing in Learning Rights Law Center’s annual Law Firm Challenge — a month-long campaign to gather donations of pro bono time and money to support the organization’s mission to provide low- income students with equal access to education. The team was recognized for its work on a series of research memoranda concerning disability justice issues in educational contexts in California. In 2020, Skadden won the competition’s Leadership Award for our work on the Long Beach Unified School District Records Request Project.
- Skadden’s Hong Kong office, 10 of its attorneys and three of its alumni were recognized for outstanding commitment to pro bono service by the Law Society of Hong Kong during its annual Pro Bono and Community Work Recognition Programme. The Firm received the society’s highest honor —the Distinguished Pro Bono Law Firm Award — which is based on each awarded firm’s number of participating lawyers, pro bono programs and Hong Kong service hours in the June 2020 – June 2021 review period, as well as the firms’ policies and initiatives that encourage attorneys to volunteer their service. During the review year, our Hong Kong office provided 2,000 pro bono legal services hours to more than 35 clients.
- The Hong Kong office also received a Gold Pro Bono Law Firm Award based on our average number of pro bono hours per lawyer, as well as the percentage of lawyers who performed more than 10 hours of pro bono work during the review period.