Washington, DC, May 26, 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Holland & Knight LLP today announced that the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC (“GMCW”) has awarded the firm its prestigious Harmony Award for the firm’s pro bono work on behalf of five gay men seeking U.S. asylum. Holland & Knight’s Community Services Team and its Gay Lesbian Bisexual & Transgender Work Group provided the legal representation.
Among those who Holland & Knight have helped in their asylum claims in the U.S. are: a gay man who was imprisoned by the Egyptian government after being entrapped by a police officer; a gay man who fled Iran after being subjected to sexual abuse and mistreatment by a member of the religious police; a gay man tortured in Gambia; a gay man from Guyana who was raped and tortured after being deported from the U.S. in 1996. Holland & Knight continues to represent a gay man who was threatened by the Mexican police and harassed.
“Our firm’s founder Chesterfield Smith imbued Holland & Knight lawyers with a sense of community purpose and the recognition that we have a professional duty to provide needy people and groups with free legal services,” said Howell Melton, Holland & Knight’s managing partner. “We’re so proud of our team for upholding the tradition and making a difference in the lives of these five men, who were persecuted by foreign governments – and in some cases subjected to torture – solely because of their sexual orientation.”
The Harmony Award recognizes individuals and organizations that exemplify the GMCW’s mission to “affirm the place of Gay people in society.” At the GMCW’s annual Spring Affair, two individuals and one organization are recognized for making a significant contribution to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer (GLBTQ) community and/or GMCW. In addition to Holland & Knight, District of Columbia Councilmember David Catania and GMCW members Roger Bergstrom and Gary Regan were recognized at the May 21st annual dinner.
In 1990, Holland & Knight established its Community Services Team to provide high-quality legal representation to those who cannot afford it. This team of full-time lawyers is a structured practice area, drawing on all of the firm’s resources. Devoted exclusively to pro bono legal services, it concentrates its efforts on complex cases with significant issues affecting large numbers of people. Holland & Knight’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Workgroup seeks to foster the success of GLBT lawyers through business development, GLBT lawyer recruitment, and creation of mentoring relationships for GLBT associates and young partners.
Firm-wide, in 2004, over 60% of Holland & Knight’s lawyers and professional staffs were involved in pro bono work and the average pro bono hours per attorney increased to almost 55. Last year, attorneys and paralegals at the firm donated over 2,000 hours in both representing and assisting five gay clients seeking asylum and speaking out to the media and public about their injustices.
About Holland & Knight LLP: Holland & Knight is a commercial law firm with more than 1,250 lawyers in 26 offices in the United States. Internationally, offices are located in Mexico City, Tokyo and Beijing, with representative offices in Helsinki, Caracas and Tel Aviv, and strategic alliance relations in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Holland & Knight is among the 15 largest firms worldwide, providing representation in all major areas of law. www.hklaw.com
About Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC (GMCW): Now in its 24th season, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC is at the forefront of the gay and lesbian choral movement, continuing its vision to affirm the gay experience and promote a culture of diversity through musical and performance excellence.
Founded in 1981, GMCW quickly became a staple of the Washington choral music scene. Over the years, GMCW has performed at the Kennedy Center, the National Theatre, the Warner Theatre, Constitution Hall, the Lincoln Theatre, and Lisner Auditorium on the George Washington University campus, along with a number of other venues in and around the District. In addition, GMCW has toured many of the major cities in the United States and, in 1998, three Scandinavian capitals. During its 20th anniversary season, GMCW performed at Symphony Hall in Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York City. Just this past season, GMCW had the honor of performing a new, truly inspirational, commissioned work, Changing Hearts, at the Montreal GALA music Festival.