June 13, 2023

On May 31, Willkie and client Pfizer teamed up through a limited-scope clinic to provide pro bono legal services to low-income transgender New Yorkers seeking to change their legal name.

Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), the largest civil legal services provider in the United States and a longtime Willkie pro bono partner, provided client referrals, training and supervision.

The volunteers first attended a training at Willkie led by Adam Heintz, LSNYC’s Director of Pro Bono Services, and Julian Castronovoa, a staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services in the LGBTQ/HIV Advocacy Unit. The training was attended in person and remotely by Willkie and Pfizer volunteers with partner Sara Tonnies Horton providing introductory remarks. The Willkie/Pfizer teams then met in-person or virtually with their clients. During the initial meetings, the teams gathered information from their clients and began drafting the name change petitions in preparation to file in New York City Civil Court.

Once the name change orders are issued by the court, the clients will have new legal names enabling them to obtain government and other identification that matches their gender identity and their lived experience. Legal name changes not only support the clients’ emotional wellbeing but also help them avoid inquiry and discrimination in employment, encounters with police, and other threats to their privacy and safety.

The Willkie volunteers included partners Sameer Advani, Sarah Gelb, Brian Greene and Rosalind Fahey Kruse; senior counsel Mitchell Auslander; pro bono counsel Stacey Kushlefsky; associates Maria Chrysanthem, Arianne Connell, Mihajlo Gasic, Kelsey Gedin, Lily Grisafi, Timothy Ryan and Danielle Stadler; and summer law clerks Cheyenne Porcher, Nicole Ruggiero, Abigail Ryckman and Anthony Simon.