23 August 2010 – Mayer Brown, a leading global law firm, has announced the winners of its fourth annual Pro Bono Awards, which recognize notable accomplishments of the firm and its lawyers whose pro bono efforts stand out and inspire others. This year’s awards honor notable achievements in the United States, Asia and Europe.

In 2009, Mayer Brown demonstrated its commitment to making a difference in the lives of those in need by participating in myriad pro bono legal matters related to civil rights, non-profit organizations, adoption programs and gun control measures, among others.

“As a leading global law firm, Mayer Brown recognizes its responsibility to advance the pro bono ideal in each jurisdiction where we operate,” said Mayer Brown Chairman Bert Krueger. “This year’s awards highlight the significant progress we have made toward that goal.”

A complete list of the 2010 pro bono award recipients follows:

Office of the Year – Los Angeles
The Los Angeles office was honored for taking on the most pro bono matters of any Mayer Brown location in 2009, with a 78 percent overall participation rate and an average of 73 pro bono hours per attorney. Pro bono work included: representing plaintiffs in prisoner civil rights cases; helping facilitate the adoptions of foster children; filing an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court; taking on two Seventh Circuit appeals; providing legal assistance to help small businesses gain access to capital; and assisting a single mother diagnosed with terminal cancer complete joint guardianship of her children.

Lawyers of the Year – Bob Mendenhall and Melissa Francis
Partner Bob Mendenhall and associate Melissa Francis earned the distinction of Lawyer of the Year, awarded to attorneys who have shown a deep commitment to the firm’s pro bono program.

Located in Mayer Brown’s Charlotte office, Bob devoted approximately 245 hours to pro bono work in 2009 and more than 2,200 hours since joining the firm in 1998. Bob has provided legal services focused on improving the quality of life for North Carolina residents by assisting the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, an organization dedicated to revitalizing inner city neighborhoods, developing affordable housing, and home ownership education; and LifeSpan, an organization offering education and employment programs to more than 2,200 children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Associate Melissa Francis of Mayer Brown’s New York office contributed nearly 285 hours to pro bono matters in 2009 and in 2008, she dedicated 402 hours to the program while maintaining a full caseload of client-chargeable matters. Since joining the firm in 2007, Melissa has provided legal assistance to three asylum seekers and was instrumental in creating a partnership with the New York Legal Assistance Group following the earthquake in Haiti, helping Haitians in the U.S. obtain Temporary Protected Status to avoid deportation. Melissa is a member of the firm’s New York Pro Bono Committee and spearheads the Generous Associates Campaign for the Legal Aid Society of the New York office.

Leadership Award – London
For many years, our London office has been leading the way to establish and develop the pro bono ideal in Europe. London’s lawyers consistently devote at least 3,000 hours per year to pro bono initiatives, and their leadership has helped make possible the 35 percent increase in pro bono hours seen in our other European offices. Attorneys in London worked on many types of pro bono cases during the year and for the second time in five years, the office received the award for Best Contribution by a Law Firm from LawWorks, the best-known referral organization of UK pro bono work. Additionally, the London office took on more projects than any other law firm from Advocates for International Development, the largest UK referral organization for international pro bono work.

Initiative Award – Frankfurt
The Frankfurt office received the Initiative Award for its efforts to institutionalize pro bono in Germany and raise awareness of pro bono work. In Germany, the act of performing pro bono work can violate German legal ethics laws. To address this, Mayer Brown lawyers, working with other international law firms, helped create the Frankfurt Pro Bono Roundtable, which explores opportunities to put German pro bono work on a more solid legal basis. With the help of associate Malte Richter, the Roundtable developed a definition of pro bono that addresses the particularities of the German legal environment, worked with the German Bar Association in Berlin, published a pro bono article in a widely circulated legal journal in Germany and met with Frankfurt and Munich Bar Associations to try to reach a consensus on pro bono work within their jurisdictions.

Project of the Year – Seventh Circuit Project
The Seventh Circuit Project, focused on providing quality legal representation to indigent appellants with potentially meritorious claims, is Mayer Brown’s most significant firmwide pro bono litigation project. A collaborative effort, every office in the US has handled at least one case for the project and lawyers, summer associates and paralegals have collectively devoted more than 3,300 hours. To date, the firm has accepted 126 cases in areas such as prisoner’s rights, habeas corpus and immigration. In 2009, Mayer Brown was the recipient of the inaugural Justice John Paul Stevens Law Firm Pro Bono Award from the Seventh Circuit Bar Association’s Pro Bono and Public Bar Service Awards Committee, honoring the firm’s outstanding pro bono work in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.    

Litigation Matter of the Year – Municipal Handgun Litigation
Mayer Brown continued its defense of local gun control measures in 2009, helping to define the parameters for an evolving constitutional right. Attorneys in Chicago represented the Village of Oak Park and assisted the City of Chicago with a joint briefing in several cases related to Heller v. District of Columbia; at issue was whether the Fourteenth Amendment imposed against state and local governments, the Second Amendment right articulated in Heller. Mayer Brown and attorneys from the City of Chicago Department of Law successfully defended the local handgun bans against constitutional challenge in the Northern District of Illinois and Seventh Circuit, although a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision ultimately ruled against the firm’s clients. In total, the firm has devoted almost 1,200 hours to gun control litigation. 

Transactional Matter of the Year – Credit Where Credit is Due
Credit Where Credit Is Due is an organization that helps low-income residents in New York establish lines of credit, learn sound personal financial solutions and develop small businesses, with the goal of enabling low-income individuals to achieve financial mobility and be informed participants in their economy. Mayer Brown has provided pro bono counsel to the organization since 2002; in 2009, the firm devoted 415 hours to legal services, raising the firm’s total commitment to 1,900 hours. Those who have been key to the firm’s successful relationship with Credit Where Credit Is Due include Mitch Gibbons of the Financial Services Regulatory and Enforcement group, Andrew Rosenman in the Employment group and Mike Morelli of the Real Estate group. 

Most Innovative Pro Bono Matter of the Year – Government & Global Trade Group, Chicago
Chicago’s Government & Global Trade group was recognized for innovative thinking in finding new ways for Mayer Brown to help those in need, specifically for the firm’s work with the Civic Consulting Alliance, an organization focused on making Chicago more livable, affordable and globally competitive. The Government & Global Trade group devoted 808 hours of legal assistance to help the organization roll out projects, including: a program providing unemployed workers with technology training; a partnership for implementing initiatives established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; and a council establishing priorities for Chicago’s workforce training and development efforts.