Mayer Brown, along with counsel Manuel Velez and associates Emily Horn, Jarman Russell and Victoria Whitney (all New York), received The Legal Aid Society’s 2019 “Pro Bono Publico Award” for the firm’s outstanding service to the organization and work on the “Broken Lease Project.”

The pro bono team partnered with The Legal Aid Society to provide legal assistance to tenants facing debt collection because of broken leases—many of whom left their apartments because of poor housing conditions. Taking advantage of tenants’ unfamiliarity with collection practices and utilizing filing, discovery and procedural rules more favorable than in housing court, many New York City landlords have sought damages allegedly resulting from broken lease provisions by commencing litigation in the main civil division of the New York Civil Court, as well as New York Supreme Court, in order to avoid the more tenant-friendly procedures in New York Housing Court. As a result of this practice, low income tenants have lost security deposits, been charged for repairs on conditions that the landlord failed to correct during their tenancy, and paid outrageous late fees and attorney’s fees.

Mayer Brown is a leader in developing innovative approaches to pro bono work and strives to pioneer projects that will have a substantial impact, both locally and globally. The firm devotes tens of thousands of hours of legal services each year to aiding the disadvantaged and the organizations that serve them.

The Legal Aid Society in New York City is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. Founded in 1876, it is the nation's oldest and largest provider of legal services to the indigent.