Chicago, August 29, 2006— LAWFUEL – Law News Network – Each of Baker & McKenzie LLP’s nine North American offices successfully hosted a recent “Pro Bono Week” to provide lawyers and staff with the opportunity to learn more about pro bono law, highlight upcoming pro bono opportunities, and honor the accomplishments of its lawyers in pro bono work. Baker & McKenzie’s series of coordinated Pro Bono Week events across all of its offices in North America significantly raises the profile of pro bono services across the Firm.
“In a law firm as large as ours, it’s important to take the opportunity to reflect upon and honor our great accomplishments in pro bono, as well as, further the Firm’s mission of assisting the underserved and disadvantaged,” said Angela Vigil, North American Director of Pro Bono and Community Service. “We’ve had an increase of interest in pro bono activities from our lawyers. Each Pro Bono Week echoed a similar positive reaction: ‘I felt great about the Firm doing that work and I want to continue to help.’”
Baker & McKenzie’s Pro Bono Week schedule kicked off in Toronto in May, followed by week-long activities in Dallas, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, San Francisco/Palo Alto, and San Diego. The Miami Pro Bono Week is scheduled for September 11-15. The event will feature presentations on upcoming pro bono projects with Autism Speaks, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., and Educate Tomorrow, an organization for whom the office has provided a first-time-ever donation of office space and services after the organization lost its previous home in a hurricane this past year.
Other Highlights from Pro Bono Week 2006:
Toronto: Established a new client partnering pro bono clinic with Firm client, Manulife, providing free will drafting to recipients of Habitat for Humanity homes.
New York : More than 40 employees of the New York office spent a day preparing a camp in upstate New York for its summer class of blind child campers in the office’s non-legal day in service project.
Washington, D.C.: Summer associates and lawyers traveled to a correctional facility in Virginia to interview immigrant applicants for citizenship in a day in service with the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Foundation.
Houston: The office launched a new transactional law project – a small business assistance clinic starting this fall, co-sponsored with the University of Houston Law Center and the University’s Small Business Development Center.
Chicago: Lawyers and summer associates interviewed unaccompanied children housed in a local facility who are seeking asylum or other paths to U.S. citizenship. They also welcomed remarks from the Honorable Ann Claire Williams of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a ceremony honoring the pro bono work of its lawyers.
Dallas: Lawyers and summer associates staffed an intake night for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Project interviewing clients in need of legal services in family law, housing, education and child custody. They also attended a presentation by the founding Director of the Human Rights Initiative on the barriers facing applicants for asylum.
San Diego: Lawyers and summer associates assisted Casa Cornelia Law Center, a local immigration law advocacy organization, interviewing and representing unaccompanied immigrant minors. The office also hosted a pro bono panel of the San Diego legal community discussing their important work.
San Francisco/Palo Alto: Public interest law leaders from the Bay Area Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights presented information to the Firm’s lawyers on “hot topic” civil rights issues affecting California and the nation.
Pro Bono Week was piloted in the Firm’s Chicago office last year. The idea was to recruit more volunteers to get involved in projects, introduce the projects to people who might not know about them, and celebrate pro bono work that had already been done. The pilot program consisted of training for pro bono programs, seminars, speeches and a day of service for summer associates. The Pro Bono Week pilot in Chicago was a success, and the program was set to launch in all North American offices in Summer 2006.
“The pro bono week program evidences our commitment to serve the disadvantaged and provide access to justice for the less fortunate across our North American offices,” said David Hackett, Baker & McKenzie LLP’s North American Managing Partner. “We are in a unique position to offer such a program and are pleased that it is also influencing the way other firms undertake pro bono activities.”
A majority of Baker & McKenzie lawyers participate in pro bono projects. In the last fiscal year, its lawyers have contributed almost 20,000 hours of pro bono service.