The American Lawyer Names the Firm its “Pro Bono Champion”
The American Lawyer named the firm its “Pro Bono Champion,” a new award as part of the publication’s newly revamped set of recognitions. The award is “meant to honor the exceptional work that goes on across the entire legal services delivery spectrum and the increasing interconnectedness among members of that community,” according to The American Lawyer. This recognition is in addition to the firm’s number one US pro bono ranking, which The American Lawyer announced in June. Award recipients receive formal recognition at a gala in New York on December 5.
Lawyers and Staff Honored at Annual Pro Bono Awards Celebration
On July 18, the firm hosted its annual Pro Bono Awards Celebration, honoring the firm's long-standing commitment to pro bono work and those who performed and supported pro bono service in exceptional ways. Partners David W. DeBruin and Sarah F. Weiss received the "Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award (AEJ Award)" – an award recognizing firm lawyers for their pro bono work. Paralegal Daniel Garcia and Legal Assistant Nora Peralta received the inaugural "Jenner & Block Award for Excellence in Pro Bono or Public Service" – an award recognizing professional staff who support the firm's pro bono and community service efforts.
Firm Ranks No. 1 in Pro Bono for Ninth Time in American Lawyer’s Annual Survey
"It [Our pro bono work] changes people's lives and in some cases it saves people's lives; people who need but would not have access to legal services if not for the lawyers at Jenner & Block…and many others in the firm who share that same commitment," said Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Andrew J. Thomas.
The honorees were presented with their respective award by their nominating lawyer. They also gave remarks after receiving their honor.
Ms. Peralta: "I'm going to leave you with a new word to add to your vocabulary: volunesia. It's that moment when you forget that you are volunteering to change lives because doing so is changing yours."
Mr. Garcia: "There's a commitment to the work that we do and this kind of event really recognizes the firmwide efforts to advocate for people and pursue justice. I think it's remarkable."
Mr. DeBruin: "For me, the greatest return from pro bono cases has been working with individuals and finding that when you listen to them, when you respect them as people and when you fight for them, what a difference that makes to that person."
Ms Weiss: "One reason I do this work is that it is truly one of my greatest privileges as a lawyer to try to help the people and families who are most impacted by our criminal justice system."
Once again, The American Lawyer has recognized Jenner & Block as the No. 1 law firm in the United States for pro bono service. This marks the ninth time the firm has achieved the top spot in the annual survey of pro bono commitment among Big Law firms. The firm is also recognized among the top 10 law firms on this year’s international ranking.
The ranking, in The American Lawyer’s annual survey, is based on 2017 hours, which totaled more than 90,700. As The American Lawyer points out, the firm averaged 168 pro bono hours per lawyer. On the international front, Jenner & Block is ranked seventh.
Partner Andrew W. Vail, co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, observes in the profile that the firm has an “extremely broad and deep” commitment to pro bono work and puts considerable effort into identifying pro bono work for litigators and transactional lawyers. In 2017, the firm increased its commitment to pro bono on asylum cases and also represented three people who were wrongfully convicted. All three of the convictions were vacated.
Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999. The firm has placed among the leading 10 pro bono programs nationwide every year since the survey began in 1990.
Associate Brij B. Patnaik Honored with Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow Alumni Award
Jenner & Block Associate Brij B. Patnaik was selected for the 2017 Distinguished Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellow Alumni Award. The Distinquished Alumni Award recognizes one former PILI Fellow for outstanding contributions of public interest and/or pro bono work. In his profile, Mr. Patnaik is celebrated for his commitment to service, specifically highlighting his pro bono work with firm client Adam Gray. Mr. Gray was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 14 for purportedly setting a fire in a Chicago apartment building that killed two people. Twenty years later, Mr. Patnaik obtained records of chemistry testing not disclosed at trial that proved the central elements of Mr. Gray’s confession could not be true. Mr. Patnaik then re-interviewed witnesses and worked with leading fire science experts to prove that there was actually no reason to believe the fire was caused by arson at all. After years of litigation, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned Mr. Gray’s conviction and granted him his freedom in 2017.
Mr. Patnaik served as a PILI Fellow with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office after graduating from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2009, prior to joining Jenner & Block. He is a member of the Young Professionals Board of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Council of Lawyers. He is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department.
Firm Named to PILI’s 2017 Pro Bono Recognition Roster
Jenner & Block is one of 47 law firms and corporations in Illinois named to the Public Interest Law Initiative’s (PILI) Pro Bono Recognition Roster. Law firms named to the Roster met at least two of the following criteria: an average of 35 pro bono hours per legal professional; a 5 percent increase in Illinois office(s) pro bono hours from the previous year; pro bono participation by 60 percent or more of the firm’s Illinois lawyers; participation in The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Law Firm Leadership Circle or one of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee Pro Bono Pledges; and/or innovative steps to expand the firm’s pro bono program.
“Through the collective efforts of law firms and corporations like yours, more low-income and under-represented individuals across Illinois have access to the justice they deserve,” expressed Michael G. Bergmann, PILI executive director.
Jenner & Block has been on the roster since 2010.
To learn more about Jenner & Block’s pro bono program, visit our pro bono page or read The Heart of the Matter newsletter.
Jenner & Block Named No. 1 Law Firm for Pro Bono in American Lawyer’s Annual Survey
Jenner & Block has once again been recognized as the No. 1 law firm in the country for pro bono service by The American Lawyer magazine. This marks the eighth time the firm has achieved the top spot in The American Lawyer’s annual survey of pro bono commitment among Big Law firms. Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999. The firm has placed among the leading 10 pro bono programs nationwide every year since the survey began in 1990.
The 2017 rankings are based on pro bono hours performed in 2016. Jenner & Block lawyers provided 141 pro bono hours per lawyer on average and 95 percent of them contributed more than 20 hours to pro bono matters. Overall, Jenner & Block lawyers performed more than 75,500 hours of pro bono work in 2016. The American Lawyer notes that the firm’s most significant pro bono matter in hours in 2016 was the court challenge to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which required that access to restrooms and changing facilities in all public buildings be restricted based on whether users are shown as male or female on their birth certificates -- thus effectively barring use by transgender persons. As co-counsel with Lambda Legal, the firm represented transgender students and employees at University of North Carolina institutions and devoted more than 1,800 hours toward the case. Last August, a federal district court judge enjoined the University from enforcing the bill, holding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the claim that the bill conflicted with requirements of Title IX.
The American Lawyer’s July edition includes an article in which Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Andrew W. Vail is quoted saying that the firm has a longstanding commitment toward LGBT rights cases, along with immigration rights and death penalty cases. “We’re very proud, and not in the ranking itself, but that it’s a reflection of and a recognition that pro bono is in Jenner & Block’s DNA. And, as the firm has grown in size, diversity, reach and practice, our pro bono program – and its numbers, impact and scope – has grown,” Mr. Vail says.
In another article about the survey, Mr. Vail observes that the reason the firm’s lawyers do so much pro bono work is that they like it. “Our attorneys are diverse and have a diverse range of passions and take on matters that they are passionate about,” he says.
For more information about Jenner & Block’s recent pro bono efforts, we invite you to check out the latest edition of The Heart of the Matter.
Jenner & Block Receives Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award
Jenner & Block was recently selected by the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation as one of only four firms worldwide – and the sole North American firm – to receive the 2017 Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award. This award is presented annually to honor Lex Mundi member firms that have provided critical pro bono legal services that help strengthen the global rule of law and improve the lives of the world’s poor and disenfranchised.
The award was presented at Lex Mundi’s annual meeting in Prague on April 27, 2017. Partner John H. Mathias, Jr. accepted on behalf of the firm.
In recognizing the winning firms, Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Managing Director Chloe Holderness said, “The honorees demonstrate how members of the Lex Mundi network are using their pro bono resources of time and expertise to have a tremendous impact on many of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. The recipients also represent how our member firms, as leading law firms in their jurisdictions, have a larger commitment to growing and strengthening the global pro bono culture.”
As an example of Jenner & Block’s exceptional pro bono contributions, Lex Mundi highlighted the firm’s work in support of the African Leadership Academy (ALA). This South African-based foundation was established in 2004 with the philosophy that a new generation of ethical, committed leaders would be the key to Africa’s development. It educates children at a Johannesburg campus and also provides scholarships to some of these children to pursue university degrees in North America.
ALA is undertaking a five-year plan for growth, partly funded by a loan from OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation), a US federal governmental agency that provides loans typically in circumstances where borrowers have limited access to capital in local markets. Partners Neil Cummings and Geoffrey M. Davis and Associate Rafi W. Mottahedeh assisted ALA in connection with obtaining this loan, including providing tax advice on the deal and follow-up work.
The Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation is the nonprofit affiliate of Lex Mundi, the world's leading association of independent law firms. Lex Mundi member law firms are located throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and North America. Each member firm is selected on the basis of its leadership in its local market. Firms must maintain their level of excellence to retain membership within the Lex Mundi network. Since Jenner & Block became Lex Mundi’s Illinois member law firm in 2013, the firm has handled approximately 15 matters through the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation. The majority of these have been transactional matters.
Jenner & Block Named to National Law Journal “Pro Bono Hot List”
For the fourth consecutive year, Jenner & Block has been named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List,” as one of only 12 law firms across the United States selected for this recognition.
A feature article published by the NLJ spotlights the excellent results firm teams achieved in six pro bono cases won in the US Supreme Court in 2015-2016, as well as the significant transactional work done by a multi-disciplinary, cross-office team for the Young Center, a nonprofit that represents unaccompanied immigrant children.
The article also notes that more than 75,000 pro bono hours were contributed by firm lawyers in 2016 alone, representing an average of 138 hours per lawyer. Nearly 94 percent of lawyers performed 20 hours or more of pro bono – an all-time firm record.
Firm’s Washington, DC Office Recognized as Pro Bono Leader
Jenner & Block’s Washington, DC office was once again recognized for its outstanding leadership in the area of pro bono service. At the 14th annual “40 at 50” Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast held on April 27, 2017 at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse,the judges of the District of Columbia federal courts honored local law firms in which at least 40 percent of all attorneys dedicated 50 or more hours in 2016 to providing free legal representation to individuals with limited financial resources or to charitable organizations. Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the US District Court for the District of Columbia were among those in attendance.
Judge Garland expressed his gratitude to the legal community for fighting for access to justice in the District. “The need is high. You fill that gap,” Garland said, also telling the assembled lawyers that their work tells people that they matter. “Clients get validation that their legal problems are important,” he stated.
Beyond achieving the “40 at 50” benchmark, Jenner & Block was noted as one of a select group of three firms where more than 65 percent of all attorneys contributed at least 50 hours of pro bono service in 2016.
The DC Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services sponsors this annual event to promote the goal that each lawyer in the District contribute at least 50 pro bono hours per year. The Judicial Conference has recognized the firm every year since the “40 at 50” list’s inception.
To read the Judicial Conference’s press release, please click here.