Pro Bono

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We take great pride in our pro bono program. It has earned us numerous awards, including inMotion's (now known as Her Justice) 2013 Commitment to Justice Award; Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. honored us for significant pro bono contributions and a Willkie partner received the organization’s 2013 Pioneer Award; Sanctuary for Families’ 2013 Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Award; and the firm and several Willkie attorneys were honored by The Legal Aid Society in 2016, 2015 and 2014 with Pro Bono Publico Awards including the 2016 Honorable Jonathan Lippman New York Pro Bono Publico & Public Service Law Firm Award, given by the Society to one law firm that exemplifies the highest standard of pro bono work. Additionally, Willkie partners were honored in both 2015 and 2014 among the New York Law Journal’s “Lawyers Who Lead by Example” in recognition of their respective exceptional pro bono contributions, and the firm and 37 Willkie attorneys were recognized by the New York State Bar Association as Empire State Counsel® honorees for their extraordinary pro bono contributions in 2015. The firm was also honored in 2015 by the Great Oaks Foundation, which launches and supports acclaimed charter schools in urban areas, for providing critical counsel on real estate matters and obtaining a landmark appellate victory in New York. We strongly encourage our attorneys to meet their pro bono responsibilities by providing essential legal services for the indigent and disadvantaged. We regularly advise our attorneys with respect to new pro bono opportunities as they arise.

All pro bono work undertaken by associates is considered the responsibility of the firm, and a partner is assigned to each matter to render advice, assistance and supervision. Lawyers working on pro bono matters have available to them the full resources of the firm. For billing purposes, time committed to pro bono matters is treated no differently than time committed to any other client.

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Externships

  • Willkie has participated in an externship program at MFY Legal Services for more than 10 years through which, on a rotating basis, the firm maintains a full-time attorney permanently on assignment at MFY. This highly popular externship is one of the oldest and most successful of its kind among large New York firms.  In 2012, the firm was honored by MFY for its overall dedication and longstanding support for the organization.
  • In 2008 the firm established a similar externship with Her Justice, at the Queens Family Justice Center. Like the MFY externship, the new Her Justice externship is a rotating position for a period of four months during which the extern is given a full case load in Family Court and Supreme Court, including hearings and trials on family law issues.
  • For a number of years the firm has incorporated one and two-week public interest externships into our Summer Associate program, as well as offering numerous opportunities to work on pro bono matters in-house throughout the course of the summer.


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Transactions and Major Projects

We work closely with a number of legal services organizations that link lawyers to needy individuals and institutions serving the disadvantaged.  We also have an active practice representing asylum seekers and other persons with complex immigration problems.  Among these organizations are:

  • The Legal Aid Society
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
  • Her Justice (formerly inMotion)
  • MFY Legal Services
  • The Innocence Project
  • NY City Bar Association Refugee Assistance Program

Additionally, we act as general counsel to a number of organizations providing services for the poor, including Women in Need and City Harvest.

In the three years following the World Trade Center attacks, our lawyers devoted thousands of hours to the assistance of WTC victims, obtaining monetary compensation for eligible clients and providing advice on bankruptcy and trusts and estates matters.

Our London office was recently named  a legal partner for Advocates for International Development (A4ID). Through A4ID, Willkie provides pro bono legal advice to clients in development organizations and other sectors working towards poverty eradication and sustainable development.

We have also worked on a number of major special projects and litigations, including:

  • our representation of Habitat for Humanity, on a completely pro bono basis, in the securitization of mortgages to raise millions of dollars for the construction of new homes for the needy;
  • our service, pro bono, as one of the principal outside counsel for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts;
  • our filing of an amicus brief on behalf of 12 organizations in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a high-profile abortion rights case before the United States Supreme Court;
  • our filing of amicus briefs in the Second Circuit and Supreme Court on behalf of a detainee charged with terrorist-related crimes in United States v. Padilla;
  • our work on behalf of  the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Medicaid campaign, which is striving to provide healthcare access to low-income transgender New Yorkers;
  • our representation of 92 amicus plaintiffs from 15 states in a case before the United States Supreme Court, regarding the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage; and
  • serving as counsel for the Innocence Project, which is acting as an amicus curiae in a lethal injection case before the United States Supreme Court.

Finally, many of our lawyers have spent large portions of their careers in various areas of public service, including one as Governor of New York, one as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one as President of the Bar Association of the City of New York, and numerous others in various departments of government.  One of our former partners, Chester J. Straub, serves on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, while another is a bankruptcy judge in the Eastern District of New York.  In short, we have a long history of commitment to and investment in the many spheres of public interest work.

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Awards and Recognition

2016

  • Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Awards – Recipient of the 2016 Honorable Jonathan Lippman New York Pro Bono Publico & Public Service Law Firm Award, given by the Society to one law firm that exemplifies the highest standard of pro bono work. The firm and Willkie attorneys have been honored by Legal Aid for numerous years, including in both 2015 and 2014.
  • City Bar Justice Award 2016 & 2015 – Willkie honored by the City Bar Justice Center for leadership and dedication to pro bono and public service. Willkie was law firm of the year in 2016.
  • Legal Services NYC Pro Bono Leadership Award 2016 – Willkie recognized by Legal Services NYC’s top 10 pro bono partners over the past year.
  • Willkie counsel Jeff Clancy was recognized as one of LSNYC’s “Top 25 Pro Bono Advocates of 2015.”
  • Willkie attorneys and Stacey Paradise were included on Legal Services NYC’s (LSNYC) Pro Bono Honor Roll for 2015.
  • On February 4, 2016, the Center for Reproductive Rights honored Willkie and other law firms who partnered with them in filing 45 amicus briefs in connection with Whole Woman’s Health.
  • On January 28, 2016, The NYSBA recognized Willkie as an Empire State Counsel® Law Firm Honoree and Mary Eaton as one of just two 2015 Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteers.  
  • New York State Bar Association 2015 Empire State Counsel® – The New York State Bar Association recognized 37 Willkie attorneys in its 2015 Empire State Counsel® Spotlight Edition of Pro Bono News.
  • Willkie named as a New York State Bar Association 2015 Empire State Counsel® Law Firm Honoree
  • Mary Eaton honored as one of just two New York State Bar Association 2015 Empire State Counsel® Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteers

2015

  • NYLJ Lawyers Who Lead by Example 2015 – Mary Eaton was selected by the New York Law Journal as an honoree for its “Lawyers Who Lead by Example” award in the pro bono category which recognizes attorneys “with an outstanding record of providing crucial legal services to poor or nearly poor New Yorkers.”   
  • On October 26, 2015, Rich Mancino and associates Santiago Assalini (no longer here) and Pia Williams Keevil were named recipients of the City Bar Justice Center’s 2015 Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Outstanding Pro Bono Service.
  • Federal Bar Council – Richard Mancino received recognition for his “exemplary commitment to pro bono legal service” by the Federal Bar Council at a reception in 2015 for the Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service.
  • Great Oaks Foundation - Willkie was honored by the Great Oaks Foundation for its “critical counsel on real estate matters including a landmark victory in New York and extensive work in Newark, Bridgeport and Wilmington.”
  • Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Awards – The firm and Willkie attorneys have been honored for numerous years, including in both 2015 and 2014, for exceptional service to Legal Aid and its clients.
  • Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) – Willkie partner Nora Ann Wallace was presented with the medal of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by Helene David-Weill, Honorary President of the Board of Directors of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Paris. The honor was awarded by the French Minister of Culture in recognition of Ms. Wallace’s pro bono work for the Friends of the Musees des Arts Decoratifs, a US 501(c)(3) organization that supports the French museum.
  • St. Ann’s Warehouse - Willkie was honored in 2015 by St. Ann’s Warehouse for its pro bono work with respect to the redevelopment and restoration of the historic tobacco warehouse located in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
  • Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs “Outstanding Achievement Awards” 2015 –  Willkie recognized for the firm’s pro bono work with the Committee’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project.
  • New York State Bar Association 2014 Empire State Counsel® – The New York State Bar Association recognized 27 Willkie attorneys in its 2014 Empire State Counsel® Spotlight Edition of Pro Bono News.

Past Noteworthy Awards & Recognition

  • Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) “Attorneys and Advocate Award” - 2014 – Firm and Mary Eaton
  • In 2014, litigation partner Richard Mancino was honored by the New York Law Journal as an honoree for its “Lawyers Who Lead by Example” award in the pro bono category
  • Law360 – Pro Bono Firm of the Year – September 2012 – Willkie profiled as one of the top pro bono firms, based on major victories and number of attorney hours committed to pro bono activities.