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Jenner & Block was recognized as the number one law firm in the country for pro bono service by The American Lawyer magazine in its annual “Pro Bono Honor Roll.” The magazine’s rankings were published in its July 2008 issue.
The Firm obtained a number one ranking through a combination of having 174.8 average pro bono hours per attorney in 2007, the highest of any law firm, as well as 92.8% of attorneys with at least 20 pro bono hours. The American Lawyer combined these two metrics and assigned Jenner & Block with a “pro bono score” of 133.8, which was 20 points higher than any other law firm in America.
“This is a tremendous honor and reflects the hard work everyone at Jenner & Block devoted in 2007 to helping the neediest in our community,” said Firm Chairman Anton R. Valukas.
“This year’s recognition highlights the Firm’s longstanding core value of commitment to our community and underscores the depth and diversity of our pro bono program,” added Susan C. Levy, Jenner & Block’s Managing Partner.
The Firm’s long-standing tradition of providing legal services to the needy has been recognized by The American Lawyer as one of the top ten programs in the country every year since 1990, including Jenner & Block being ranked #1 also in 1999.
Yet, the numbers do not tell the whole story of the many Firm clients with limited means or whose civil or human rights were at stake in 2007, noted Partners Barry Levenstam and David W. DeBruin, Co-Chairs of Jenner & Block’s Pro Bono Committee.
For instance, The American Lawyer recognized the Firm’s class action lawsuit on behalf of public housing residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, which was filed in 2006 against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and other officials. The residents’ homes have been shuttered since the disaster and they have not been allowed back into public housing. The lawsuit was filed on the basis that the agencies’ actions violate the Fair Housing Act, as well as other state and federal laws.
Over 6000 hours were devoted to the New Orleans matter by Firm attorneys in 2007, the American Lawyer noted. Jenner & Block recently filed an appeal of a lower court's decision to deny a preliminary injunction to stop the government from demolishing the clients' homes in the matter. The Firm is separately moving forward with the class action claims relating to the inadequacy of the government's attempts at making substitute housing available through voucher programs. In addition, Jenner & Block is assisting with grass roots and other advocacy to help insure the Firm's clients - the displaced residents of public housing - are included in the New Orleans rebuilding efforts, rather than cast aside.
The American Lawyer also recognized the Firm’s efforts to help numerous people obtain asylum in the United States, permitting the refugees, who had been persecuted in their native lands on ethnic and political grounds, to remain in the United States and seek citizenship. The Firm has helped nearly 20 individuals obtain asylum in the Unites States over the last two years. In one notable 2007 case, the Seventh Circuit granted asylum to a Ugandan woman who was assaulted and abused when she refused to consent to an arranged marriage in Uganda, which marked the first time that an immigration judge in the Seventh Circuit has recognized “women sold into arranged marriages” as a “social group” for purposes of granting asylum in the United States. In another, the Firm secured asylum for Four Tibetan Buddhists persecuted by the Chinese government due to their political and religious convictions. The Firm devoted over 3,300 pro bono hours to asylum matters in 2007.
Jenner & Block also made major efforts to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad, devoting over 900 hours to such matters. In one case, for example, the Firm served as co-counsel with CASA of Maryland, a public interest group, in a federal suit against a foreign official working in Washington, DC, for allegedly trafficking a household servant to the U.S. and forcing her to work in inhumane conditions for years without compensation. The court ordered back wages, punitive damages and compensatory damages for emotional distress.
The Firm’s impact was also evident in the communities in which Jenner & Block attorneys and their clients live. In New York City, for example, Jenner & Block served as pro bono counsel for “Garden in Transit,” a groundbreaking public arts project organized by nonprofit Portraits of Hope in which participants from hundreds of New York schools, hospitals and after-school programs collaborated to decorate thousands of New York City taxi cabs with large, vibrant flower images. Meanwhile, also in New York, Jenner & Block serves as a Special Master in connection with civil suits brought by New York City against over a dozen gun dealers, as part of an effort to curtail the flow of illegal handguns into the city.
Please click here to view the pro bono rankings as published in the July 2008 issue of The American Lawyer magazine.
For details on all of the Firm’s pro bono work in 2007, please click here to view Jenner & Block’s 2007 pro bono report, The Heart of the Matter.