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We believe in giving back, and we want attorneys who have a passion for making a positive impact in the lives of others — in 2023, our attorneys devoted 128.5 hours to pro bono, and over the past 15 years, our attorneys and professional staff have contributed nearly three 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 preeminent law firm.

Our Approach

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 Work

Our pro bono work is diverse and wide-ranging. 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: 

Cyber-Crimes, Hate Crimes and Sex Crimes: Legal Rights and Obligations: For 10 years, attorneys and professional staff 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, including laws governing cyber-crimes, cyber-bullying, hate crimes, “sexting,” “sextortion” and consent, among other timely and critical topics. We have also provided the program in virtual and hybrid formats to Spanish-speaking teens (utilizing concurrent live translation services) and to parent groups. 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. The program, which has won several awards, including a Community Impact Award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal, was developed in collaboration with several nonprofits, 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.

Eviction Prevention: Nearly 125 Skadden attorneys, summer associates and professional staff dedicated more than 1,600 hours assisting over 60 low-income New Yorkers at risk of losing their homes by participating in 10 housing clinics held throughout 2023. Thousands of low-income New Yorkers live in apartments that are in a state of shocking disrepair and have landlords who refuse to fix these conditions, or who harass tenants, and are in violation of the New York City Housing Maintenance Code. Housing conditions, in turn, result in evictions, often because tenants withhold rent hoping it will compel landlords to make repairs. Instead, it often leads to a nonpayment eviction proceeding by landlords who still refuse to make repairs. Through our housing clinics, volunteers advised clients on eviction risks and prepared pro se paperwork to initiate housing repair cases seeking repairs and/or protection against harassment. Several Skadden corporate clients have joined these efforts, allowing the clinics to assist even more people.

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. More than 650 attorneys from 19 of Skadden’s global offices contributed more than 35,000 hours in 2023. Currently, the firm has more than 550 active cases open under this project. In 2021, the firm hired a full-time pro bono immigration attorney to help oversee the project.

Responsible Policing/Government Misconduct: Throughout 2023, Skadden volunteers filed nearly 150 notices of claim (NOCs) and dedicated more than 1,240 hours in partnership with Bronx Defenders (BxD) to assist victims of excessive force by the police. NOCs are required before an individual can pursue a civil rights case against the city, and they must comport with strict requirements, including a 90-day filing deadline from the date of the alleged incident. Since summer 2020, our volunteers have been working in partnership with BxD on referrals received on a rolling basis to conduct client interviews and file NOCs on behalf of clients. Our attorneys and professional staff members have been supporting limited scope NOC clinics with BxD since 2016.

Wrongful Conviction: Attorneys at Skadden and Weil have been helping the Innocence Project with their intake process 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 the organization decides how to proceed with each case. The Skadden team is currently comprised of more than 200 attorneys across our global offices. Attorneys at Skadden have completed over 4,000 evaluations since the inception of the partnership and completed 350 evaluations in 2023.

Immediate Impact

Summer associates at Skadden are encouraged to work on pro bono matters they care about while being mentored and supported by attorneys and professional staff at the firm and experts at legal services organizations. In 2023, our summer associates contributed more than 6,400 hours working on more than 195 pro bono matters. Teams of summer associates worked together on pro bono matters and research in areas such as asylum work, racial justice initiatives, eviction defense, family law matters, veterans’ rights, criminal/prisoners’ rights and the incorporation of nonprofit entities.

Initiatives and Achievements

Skadden is regularly recognized by legal services providers and bar associations for a wide array of pro bono achievements.

Recent accomplishments include: Gold Pro Bono Law Firm Award (Law Society of Hong Kong, 2023); Pro Bono Innovator Award (Bloomberg Law, 2023); Pro Bono Publico Award (The Legal Aid Society, 2023); Leadership Award (Access to Justice Awards, Delaware State Bar Association, 2023); Pro Bono Champion Award (American Gateways, 2023); Beacon of Justice Award (National Legal Aid & Defender’s Association, 2023); Outstanding Pro Bono Partnership Award (Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., 2023); Lead Chair Award (inaugural recipient, Combined Campaign for Justice, 2023); and a top law firm for pro bono in the U.K. ( International, 2023).