We take great pride in our pro bono program. It has earned us numerous awards, including inMotion's (now known as Her Justice) 2011 Law Firm of the Year Award and their Commitment to Justice Award for Outstanding Legal Team, Legal Aid Society’s 2010 and 2011 Pro Bono Publico Award, the MFY Legal Services Scales of Justice Award and was one of two 2012 MFY honorees recognized for longstanding support, and an "exceptional philanthropist" award for the firm's Greater Washington Community Foundation. 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.
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.
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.
We have also worked on a number of major special projects and litigations, including:
our service, pro bono, as one of the principal outside counsel for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; and
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.
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.