22 October 2009 – Mayer Brown, a leading global law firm, today announced the recipients of the firm’s 2009 Pro Bono Awards, which annually honor outstanding pro bono achievements of the firm and its lawyers. The awards recognize work done across the United States on a wide range of pro bono matters, including political asylum, not-for-profit financing, microfinance and women’s advocacy issues.

Mayer Brown seeks to institutionalize pro bono law by practicing law in the trenches - representing disadvantaged clients and often unpopular causes - while utilizing the resources of one of the world's top corporate and litigation law firms.

“Through our global platform, Mayer Brown is able to provide its lawyers with a dynamic pro bono program that offers a wide range of opportunities to give back to our communities,” said Mayer Brown Chairman Bert Krueger. “We commend our colleagues who have provided legal services to those who need it most and serve as ambassadors of the legal profession to the global community.” 

A complete list of the 2009 pro bono award recipients follows:

Office of the Year – Palo Alto
The Palo Alto office was recognized for its involvement in a wide range of pro bono work, including: filing amicus briefs in the 9th Circuit and Supreme Court; providing legal assistance to immigrants and asylum seekers; representing indigent individuals in eviction proceedings and guardianship matters; handling cases through the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies; providing tax and intellectual property assistance to not-for-profit organizations; and winning a major trademark disparagement case. The office-wide participation rate in pro bono matters was 96 percent.

Practice Group of the Year – New York Litigation
Litigators in New York worked on many types of pro bono cases during the year, including civil rights, First Amendment, landlord-tenant, asylum, adoption and divorce cases. They also assisted a nonprofit organization seeking to recover embezzled funds; drafted a white paper in connection with efforts to reform the state secrets privilege; and submitted an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of US citizens tortured in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime. Attorneys in the litigation practice also are handling a criminal matter involving complicated extradition issues and another criminal case defending a woman accused of murder. The practice also launched a project with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem to provide pro bono legal services in connection with the organization’s Misdemeanor Project.

Practice Group of the Year – Washington, DC Tax Transactions
The Washington, DC Tax Transactions practice provided sophisticated tax advice to development, microfinance and social entrepreneur organizations and to an organization that works to prevent human trafficking, one whose mission is to save Ugandan children with life-threatening heart conditions and another that builds affordable housing for low-income families in the District of Columbia. The practice had a 100% participation rate among associates.

Project of the Year – Yale Sale School Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic
The Clinic, which was launched in 2006 under the direction of Mayer Brown partners Andy Pincus and Charles Rothfeld, gives students at Yale the opportunity to learn Supreme Court advocacy from these renowned practitioners and provides much-needed pro bono representation in important cases before the Court. During the past term, the Clinic filed 13 cert petitions, 6 merits briefs, 9 amicus briefs and 4 briefs opposing cert. The Clinic also has been successful in three recent Supreme Court cases involving asylum, sexual harassment and the death penalty.

Project of the Year – Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) Project
The QDRO Project provides legal assistance to low-income individuals in drafting Qualified Domestic Relations Orders in the context of divorce proceedings. A QDRO is a court order that recognizes the right of an individual to receive a designated percentage of an ex-spouse’s pension plan, and it is a very technical and complicated area of the law that would be difficult to navigate without an attorney. The project is a partnership between Mayer Brown and the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic and the Legal Assistance Foundation. In the year since the project was established, the firm’s ERISA attorneys have taken on six pro bono cases.

Litigation Matter of the Year – State of Texas v. Deryl Wayne Madison
Our client, Deryl Wayne Madison, was found guilty of capital murder in 1989 and sentenced to death. In July, after working on the case for more than 8 years, lawyers in Mayer Brown’s Houston office secured the withdrawal of his death sentence in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. The Mayer Brown team who worked on this case included more than 50 partners, counsel, associates, summer associates and paralegals, who devoted more than 4,000 hours to Mr. Madison’s representation.

Litigation Matter of the Year – People of the State of Illinois v. Marvin Reeves
In July 2009, Mayer Brown attorneys Mike Gill and David Pope secured the dismissal of the case against Marvin Reeves, who was convicted along with a co-defendant and sentenced to five life terms without parole for the alleged murder of two women and three children 19 years ago. The dismissal was based on exculpatory evidence that had not been turned over during the trial. The Mayer Brown team worked on this matter for four years and devoted more than 500 hours to Mr. Reeves’ representation. 

Transactional Matter of the Year – BRAC Africa Fund
The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) is a nonprofit microfinance organization that has been instrumental in the development of Bangladesh during the past 30 years. BRAC is one of the world’s largest human development organizations, and much of its work focuses on helping women rise out of poverty. In October 2008, a team of Chicago lawyers successfully completed a $62 million syndicated credit facility for BRAC that will allow it to combat poverty in East Africa through microfinance loans to poor borrowers. The BRAC Africa Fund is the largest single financing to date of a Southern hemisphere development organization expanding into Africa. 

Transactional Matter of the Year – Asian University for Women Support Foundation
Since 2001, Mayer Brown has provided pro bono assistance to the Asian University for Women Support Foundation. This nonprofit organization assists with the planning, creation, development, and funding of the Asian University for Women, a leading institute of higher education that is based in Bangladesh. Attorneys from six of the firm’s seven US offices have worked on Foundation matters, devoting more than 1,900 hours to: helping the Foundation to negotiate the ratification of the University’s charter; assisting on international issues such as the cross-border disbursement of funds and compliance with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and OFAC regulations; and assisting with real estate and tax issues, employment agreements, architectural contracts and corporate governance and organizational matters.  

Transactional Matter of the Year – Women Thrive Worldwide
Women Thrive Worldwide, located in Washington DC, is a leading non-profit organization shaping US policy on helping women in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty. The firm has worked with the organization since 2005, devoting over 1,000 hours to providing legal assistance on matters related to international trade law and policy matters, tax, trademark, contracts, employment law, corporate governance, immigration and general strategic advice. 

Community Service Project of the Year – Race Judicata
For the past 10 years, Mayer Brown has been a primary sponsor of the Race Judicata “Sprint for Justice” 5k run/walk. Race Judicata benefits the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation in their mission to provide legal services for the poor. And for the past 3 years, Mayer Brown has won the award for entering the largest law firm team in the race.

Community Service Project of the Year – Miriam’s Kitchen
For more than 15 years, our Washington office has helped prepare and serve breakfast once a month at Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that provides healthy, homemade meals and comprehensive case management services to homeless men and women in the District of Columbia. Numerous Mayer Brown lawyers, staff and summer associates have volunteered to help with the breakfast program or donated much-needed food, clothing and other items.

To learn more about Mayer Brown’s pro bono program, please click here