The third annual Law360 series identifies law firms that commit a significant number of attorney hours and secure major victories in high-profile pro bono matters.
Willkie’s longstanding commitment to providing high quality pro bono legal service has earned it the distinction of “Pro Bono Firm of 2012” by the online legal publisher Law360. The most recent edition of the four-part series highlights some of Willkie’s high-profile victories secured for pro bono clients over the past year. In particular, Willkie was distinguished for its successful representation of the plaintiff group in the high-profile New York State redistricting case, winning the dismissal of federal criminal charges against a Sierra Leone native, helping to secure an appeals court ruling for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in a classroom creationism case, providing assistance to Common Ground in its reorganization, and working with The Innocence Project to exonerate a client wrongly incarcerated for 30 years.
The profile includes an interview with partner Michael Schachter, who serves as Chair of Willkie’s Pro Bono Committee and is a member of the Criminal Justice Act Panel for the Southern District of New York. Last year the firm took 23 cases from the Panel, which defends indigent individuals facing federal criminal charges. Mr. Schachter discussed the firm’s success in proving the innocence of a Sierra Leonean man wrongly accused of drug trafficking, highlighting that “The ability to see an innocent person exonerated was an unbelievable experience for everyone on the team.” In discussing how Willkie’s pro bono contributions are made on a voluntary basis, Mr. Schachter told Law360 that “people will be more enthusiastic about matters they take on if it’s what they want to do, not what they’re required to do.”
The profile also includes interviews with partners Richard Mancino and Thomas Golden, who discuss other significant Willkie pro bono victories that made recent headlines.
Each year, Law360 recognizes a group of twenty law firms based on pro bono hours and major victories secured on behalf of pro bono clients. Across the law firms tapped for this year’s Law360 pro bono honor, the publication noted that attorneys in 2011 committed over 70 pro bono hours and averaged about 104 pro bono hours per attorney. Willkie attorneys devote a substantial amount of time and effort to pro bono work. Over the past year, Willkie’s U.S. attorneys averaged 90.1 pro bono hours. In the New York and Washington offices in 2011, Willkie provided a collective 35,052 hours of pro bono service. The firm maintains two externship programs with prominent New York City-based non-profit legal service providers, MFY Legal Services and inMotion Queens Family Justice Center, that provide the opportunity for attorneys to serve full-time at one of the organizations for four months on a rotating basis.