Pro Bono

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Willkie takes great pride in the volume and variety of work the firm performs on a pro bono basis. The firm has a long-standing commitment to serving the underprivileged and promoting social justice. We have consistently achieved exceptional results on behalf of pro bono clients in a wide array of matters. From obtaining asylum for individuals around the world to filing amicus briefs in landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases, Willkie’s work with underrepresented clients is extensive and encompasses a broad range of causes and issues.

Willkie is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, where law firms commit to providing three percent of their billable hours annually to pro bono legal services. Willkie is also a signatory to the Pro Bono Declaration for the Americas, where law firms and other legal organizations commit to an average of 20 hours of pro bono work annually per attorney. Willkie consistently exceeds these benchmarks.

Additionally, Willkie is a member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), in which we have pledged to contribute significant pro bono resources in a coordinated private/public sector effort to identify and dismantle structural or systemic racism in the law.

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Externships

Willkie maintains three externship programs. Associates serve on a rotating basis as full-time attorneys for four months, gaining hands-on legal experience while significantly impacting lives. Associates from all departments are invited to participate in these externships.

  • Mobilization for Justice provides legal assistance to low-income residents of New York City on a wide range of civil issues. The Willkie extern handles a full caseload of landlord/tenant matters in and out of housing court.
  • Her Justice provides legal services to women living in poverty in New York City in the areas of matrimonial, family and immigration law. The Willkie extern is given a full caseload of family law matters in Family Court and Supreme Court.
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee provides pro bono legal services to address discrimination and poverty in the Washington, D.C. community. The Willkie extern works on a variety of cases to combat discrimination based on race, gender, disability, family size, criminal history and more.

 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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Pro Bono in Practice

Willkie offers attorneys many opportunities to provide pro bono legal advice and support to underserved individuals, communities and organizations. Projects range from a four-month, full-time commitment to representing clients from all the world seeking asylum here in the U.S.

We work closely with a number of legal services organizations that link lawyers to needy individuals and institutions serving the disadvantaged. Among these organizations are:

  • The Legal Aid Society
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
  • Her Justice
  • Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • The Innocence Project
  • City Bar Justice Center
  • Immigration Equality

Partner Michael Schachter and Senior Counsel Martin Klotz are approved Criminal Justice Act panelists for the Southern District of New York, and work with Willkie attorneys on matters ranging from organized crime to international narcotics trafficking.

Willkie partners with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender Appellate Division to represent indigent individuals convicted of crimes in their appeals.

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Awards and Recognition

2019

  • The American Lawyer – Litigation partner Richard Mancino was named “Litigator of the Week” by The Am Law Litigation Daily in recognition of his successful pro bono work in challenging President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to fund US-Mexico border wall construction.
  • Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Awards – Willkie and several attorneys individually recognized for outstanding pro bono service in 2019.
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Outstanding Achievement Award – Willkie was honored for its notable win on behalf of CASA and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients from across the U.S. in a Fourth Circuit appellate case that struck down the Trump administration’s attempted rescission of DACA.
  • NYSBA Empire State Counsel® Law Firm Honors – 49 Willkie attorneys recognized for their significant pro bono contributions in 2018.
  • American Bar Association Stonewall Award 2019 – Litigation partner Mary Eaton was one of three individuals recognized by the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for her significant pro bono contributions to the advancement of LGBT individuals in the legal profession, and/or to LGBT legal issues.
  • Chambers Diversity & Inclusion Awards USA 2019 – Several Willkie attorneys were honored for furthering diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and for exceptional pro bono service.
  • Her Justice Annual Photography Auction & Benefit 2019 – Partner Matthew Feldman, who serves on the Board of Directors for Her Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal help to women living in poverty in New York City, was honored for his longtime support and advocacy.
  • Immigration Equality Safe Haven Award 2019 – Willkie and numerous attorneys individually were recognized for their lifesaving work on behalf of oppressed LGBTQ asylum seekers from all over the world. 27 Willkie attorneys were presented with 2019 Safe Haven Award Certificates for pro bono excellence.

2018

  • Federal Bar Council Thurgood Marshall Award – Litigation associate Shaimaa Hussein was honored with the 2018 Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service in recognition of her “exemplary commitment to providing or facilitating pro bono legal services in federal courts or agencies within the Second Circuit.”
  • Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Awards – Willkie and several attorneys individually recognized for outstanding pro bono service in 2018.
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Outstanding Achievement Award – Willkie honored for its extraordinary work with the DC Parole Project.
  • Judicial Conference of the District of Columbia Circuit “40 at 50” Award – Willkie’s Washington office honored for having at least 40 percent of its lawyers contributing a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono legal services in 2017.
  • NYSBA’s 2018 President’s Pro Bono Service Award – Litigation associate Shaimaa Hussein presented with the New York State Bar Association’s President’s Pro Bono Service Award (Young Attorney category), in recognition of her outstanding pro bono contributions, particularly with respect to her work on behalf of refugees.
  • NYSBA Empire State Counsel® Law Firm Honors – Willkie recognized as a law firm honoree for its outstanding pro bono contributions on behalf of low-income/vulnerable individuals in 2017.

2017

  • Brooklyn Legal Services/LSNYC – Willkie was the recipient of the 2017 Champion of Justice Award for its outstanding work on behalf of BLS clients on housing, consumer debt and disaster relief matters.
  • Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Awards – Willkie was honored with a 2017 firm pro bono Publico Award and three individual attorney awards in recognition of exceptional pro bono services for low-income New Yorkers.
  • Human Rights First Marvin Frankel Award – Willkie honored for its outstanding pro bono service to refugees and asylum seekers.
  • New York State Bar Association 2016 Empire State Counsel® - The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) recently included 33 Willkie attorneys among its list of Empire State Counsel®, recognized for their significant pro bono contributions on behalf of low-income/vulnerable individuals.
  • American Lawyer: Litigator of the Week – Shaimma Hussein was named “Litigator of the Week” for her role in the firm's successful representation of a 12-year old Iranian national who, in the face of President Trump’s travel ban, sought entry into the United States for an urgent and time-sensitive surgery needed to save her vision.
  • Her Justice Commitment to Justice Awards – Willkie team honored for its outstanding representation of a pro bono client in a domestic abuse case.

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.

COVID-19 – Supporting our Communities

Our firm has also undertaken a number of initiatives to help those impacted by the COVID-19 virus, spanning financial support and donations of supplies to hospitals, meal donations to first responders across the country, as well as numerous pro bono projects.

For example, we are among the firms joining together to provide small businesses with support and guidance relating to COVID-19 stimulus packages through Lawyers for Good Government, City Bar Justice Center, DC Bar Pro Bono Center and Houston Office of Business Opportunity. Willkie is also working with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Families Against Mandatory Minimums on the Compassionate Release COVID-19 Clearinghouse Project as well as the Aleph Institute seeking compassionate release for federal inmates at high risk of COVD-19. In addition, Willkie is providing pro bono assistance to front-line COVID-19 health care workers with preparing life planning documents in partnership with the City Bar Justice Center’s Planning and Estates Law Project.

Willkie is proud to be part of Global Legal Solidarity, a worldwide initiative providing free legal advice to small businesses, NGOs and individuals in urgent need of assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please email probono@willkie.com if your business has been affected and you need a legal consultation. Inquiries will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.


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