February 7, 2005, Philadelphia – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Adding fuel to its already burning passion for providing effective legal representation to nonprofit organizations and downtrodden and disaffected individuals, top 25 international law firm Reed Smith LLP today named Christopher K. Walters, a long-time partner in its Philadelphia office, to the new position of Senior Pro Bono Counsel.
He joins Ira S. Lefton, Reed Smith’s first Director of Pro Bono and Community Services, in staffing this initiative firmwide.
“As Reed Smith expands, we feel an increased responsibility to do more for the communities in which our offices are located and in which our attorneys work and live,” said Mr. Lefton. “This requires an exceptionally qualified, well connected attorney to devote full time to finding new local service opportunities and coordinating the firm’s response to the most pressing needs. Chris is just the person for this complex and challenging job. His role will be to insure that our pro bono clients receive the same level of nurture and care as any of our other valued clients.”
Mr. Walters came to Reed Smith in 1978, founding the Philadelphia Litigation group the same year and serving as its leader until 1988. He has extensive experience in handling trials and appeals in complex commercial cases, including construction, product liability, fraud, and intellectual property matters.
A 1967 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law, Mr. Walters brings a depth of pro bono experience to his new role. After four years of effort on behalf of a Pennsylvania death row inmate, he recently succeeded in having the jury’s death penalty lifted, by convincing the court the original defense lawyer’s efforts were constitutionally inadequate. The Commonwealth is appealing.
“I am committed to increasing the number of pro bono and community service hours Reed Smith already provides coast to coast,” Mr. Walters said. “My first step is to connect with the social service agencies and nonprofits in our communities to identify the most compelling areas of local need. Then I’ll become something of a matchmaker, recruiting and linking Reed Smith attorneys to volunteer their knowledge and expertise to finding solutions and resolving issues that otherwise would go unmet.”
The firm has already adopted two major firmwide pro bono initiatives in 2005. It has taken on a legal support role for the Local Initiatives Service Corporation (LISC), a nationwide nonprofit that provides grants, loans and equity investments to community development corporations for neighborhood redevelopment. It has also launched a children’s initiative, working with the National Children’s Law Network, which will include pro bono and community service work for child-serving organizations in several of the 14 US cities in which Reed Smith has a significant presence.
Mr. Walters will be assisted in these endeavors by the firm’s pro bono committee in each region, and their regional coordinators.
Reed Smith attorneys have achieved an enviable record of pro bono accomplishments in the recent past, including:
Devoting nearly 80 attorneys from its offices coast-to-coast during the 2004 General Election to the Election Protection Project, a nonpartisan effort to vindicate equal access to the polls, especially for historically disenfranchised minorities and other groups.
Fighting and winning, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, pioneering cases shaping the asylum laws that offer sanctuary for individuals subjected to torture and other egregious treatment in their homelands. For these efforts, the San Francisco Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights gave Reed Smith’s Jayne Fleming its prestigious Father Moriarity Award in 2004.
Working on behalf of Amish clients in Western Pennsylvania, profiled in The New York Times, and recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the top efforts in 2003.
Being recognized with an “Adoption Excellence” Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for providing legal assistance allowing 600 abused and neglected children to be placed in permanent homes.
The firm’s community service record is also noteworthy. Coast to coast, Reed Smith attorneys:
ü Serve on the boards and committees of more than 450 nonprofit organizations.
ü Offer their legal skills to assist victims of domestic violence.
ü Provide legal counsel to help nonprofits to merge so they can pool their resources, and resolve real estate issues so that nonprofit organizations have a home.
ü Collect cell phones for battered women, and almost-new and never-used toys for disadvantaged children.
ü Repair the homes of elderly and disabled people.
ü Spend one-on-one time with children – reading and tutoring them individually– to help them raise their reading levels and continue to succeed..
ü Raise funds and participate in Walks, Runs, and Rides throughout the US and UK that benefit charitable organizations.
ü Received the “Platinum Award” for contributions to United Way.
“Pro bono efforts bring the members of our firm together as a team to make a difference, and to deepen our understanding of our communities,” Mr. Walters explained. “It’s evident from the results we’ve already accomplished how we can make a significant difference for the better. We’ve helped make some good things happen – and now we intend to multiply these impacts.”