Mayer Brown honors pro bono efforts with 2012 Pro Bono Awards
23 August 2012
Mayer Brown, a leading global law firm, announced the winners of its sixth annual Pro Bono Awards, which honor the outstanding achievements by the firm’s lawyers to provide legal services to individuals and groups with limited means, and to organizations seeking to protect civil liberties, civil rights and human rights.
In 2011, Mayer Brown made significant contributions to a wide range of litigation and transactional pro bono matters, which included providing assistance to economically depressed communities, fighting global corruption and promoting government transparency. The firm continued advocating for the rights of the poor, homeless, disabled and elderly and also maintained its efforts to institutionalize pro bono work outside the US.
“At Mayer Brown, we view pro bono as more than just a long-standing tradition; it is an obligation that lawyers must fulfill as members of our profession,” said Marc Kadish, Director of Pro Bono Activities and Litigation Training. “This year’s awards exemplify Mayer Brown’s sustained commitment to pro bono, a defining characteristic of the firm.”
A complete list of the 2012 award recipients follows:
Pro Bono Project of the Year – Supplemental Needs Trust Project, New York
The New York office was honored for its work assisting low-income elderly, disabled and blind Medicaid recipients in New York State who face a major dilemma each month: use their limited funds to pay for food, housing, utilities and other essentials, or pay their medical bills. In 2006, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House began helping its Medicaid clients to create Supplemental Needs Trusts, which allow disabled individuals to place money in a trust account that is exempt for Medicaid purposes. However, demand soon exceeded capacity, and Mayer Brown’s New York office partnered with Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to create a program to help meet that demand. Since its inception, Mayer Brown lawyers have billed approximately 1,120 hours to the project and established trust accounts for almost 40 clients, vastly improving the quality of life for these individuals.
Pro Bono Matters of the Year
Transparency International U.N.C.A.C. Global Review Program, London – In 2003, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. The Convention includes agreements to criminalize bribery, embezzlement and money laundering. Reports on how well the individual countries are complying with the Convention are being prepared by more than 300 civil society organizations in more than 100 countries. Transparency International, an organization that is working to free the world of corruption, is funding and supporting these civil society organizations.
Mayer Brown’s London office has assisted Transparency International by coordinating the review of compliance reports from more than 15 jurisdictions including South Africa, Uruguay, Peru, Lithuania, Morocco and Zambia. The project has involved Mayer Brown lawyers from London, Washington, Paris and Hong Kong, as well as lawyers from Tauil & Chequer, in association with Mayer Brown, in Brazil. The project has gone so well that Mayer Brown and Transparency International were awarded the Thomson Reuters TrustLaw 2011 Collaboration Award.
NDLON Secure Communities FOIA Litigation, New York – The US government’s Secure Communities program is a controversial deportation program, requiring state and local law enforcement to turn over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fingerprints taken during arrests. These are then used to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.
Since 2010, Mayer Brown and its co-counsel – the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic – have been representing the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation related to Secure Communities. The stated goal of Secure Communities is the removal of “criminal aliens.” However, data obtained through FOIA requests and the related litigation raised questions about the actual impact of Secure Communities, resulting in substantial revisions to the program by DHS.
Mayer Brown’s litigation also resulted in a number of key FOIA decisions. For the first time ever in a federal case, a court issued an order in the FOIA context that required the government to comply with standard electronic discovery practices by producing records in a searchable electronic format. The court also issued several rulings limiting the government’s assertion of the attorney-client privilege and “deliberative process” exemptions, and an order calling metadata an integral part of an electronic record.
As a result of the data release and the court’s rulings, the Electronic Frontier Foundation recognized NDLON v. ICE as one of four cases that promoted transparency in 2011.
Corporate Pro Bono Partner of the Year – AT&T
The Corporate Pro Bono Partner of the Year award recognizes outside organizations or companies with which Mayer Brown has partnered on a pro bono or community service project. This year, the firm honored AT&T for its work on Wills for Heroes – a program in which attorneys donate their time to help prepare wills and powers of attorney for local police officers —and for its sustained commitment to pro bono and community service.
In November 2011, Mayer Brown and AT&T partnered to staff a Wills for Heroes event in Chicago that helped approximately 90 police officers in one day. The event went so well, that Mayer Brown and AT&T held another in June, which also included representatives from other companies.
Pro Bono Leadership Award – Kiran Desai, partner-in-charge, Brussels
The Pro Bono Leadership Award recognizes the efforts of those who encourage and pave the way for active participation in pro bono, both in our firm and in the community.
Kiran Desai, partner-in-charge in Brussels, has been an important part of Mayer Brown’s effort to institutionalize pro bono work in Europe, and to encourage participation in the firm’s pro bono program in our European offices. Mr. Desai has been instrumental in developing pro bono work for the Brussels office and in helping to develop the pro bono program in Europe generally. He also leads by example. He has assisted and supervised on many pro bono matters, including: participation in a 72-hour long advice hotline for Oxfam in relation to the proposed multilateral Arms Trade Treaty; advising Christian Aid on their reporting and other obligations in relation to their work in the Belgian Congo; and advising Tearfund on identification of laws that promote transparency and accountability in the extractive industry.
Pro Bono Community Service Project of the Year – Malmesbury Primary School Program, London
As a good corporate citizen, Mayer Brown encourages participation in community service activities. While there are many deserving projects sponsored by the firm’s offices around the world, the winner in 2012 is the Malmesbury Primary School Program.
Each week, a dozen or more lawyers and staff from Mayer Brown’s London office travel to Malmesbury Primary School in the Tower Hamlets district of East London. They teach reading and math skills to students age 7 through 9, and help them practice their French. Over the past 12 years, the London office has devoted approximately 10,000 hours to the project. The office runs an annual party for the children, and it also has made financial and other donations to the school, including sponsoring story-telling sessions and poetry workshops.
Pro Bono Lawyers of the Year
Partners Carolyn Osolinik and John Janicik, senior associate Simon Hartley and associate Sarah Reynolds each earned the distinction of Lawyer of the Year, awarded to attorneys who have shown a deep commitment to the firm’s pro bono program.
Carolyn Osolinik – A Government Relations partner in Washington, DC, in recent years Ms. Osolinik has centered her pro bono efforts on representing the US International Council on Disabilities (USICD) in advocating for Senate ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will help protect from discrimination Americans with disabilities who work and travel abroad. Ratification would also confirm US leadership on disability rights issues internationally. In 2011, Ms. Osolinik devoted 365 hours to this effort, which is the culmination of three decades of dedication to the rights of the disabled.
Her work includes leading a Mayer Brown team to create and implement a strategy focused on developing bipartisan support for ratification of the Convention. Ms. Osolinik’s strategy is working – on May 17, President Obama submitted the Convention to the Senate for ratification. And on May 25, a bipartisan group of 7 senators publicly announced their support for ratification. Ms. Osolinik’s efforts were recently recognized by The National Law Journal, which named her to its 2012 Champions and Visionaries list.
John Janicik – Throughout his career, Chicago Government & Global Trade partner John Janicik has consistently demonstrated a commitment to helping the disadvantaged and to making the Chicagoland community a better place. Since 2005, Mr. Janicik has averaged almost 150 pro bono hours per year. In 2011 alone, Mr. Janicik devoted 250 hours to pro bono efforts.
Mr. Janicik has primarily served two pro bono clients: the IMD Guest House Foundation, which provides safe and affordable accommodations for friends and families of patients receiving treatment at Chicago area hospitals; and The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, which seeks to create and encourage an ethical marketplace by promoting business integrity and performance. In addition to his pro bono efforts, Mr. Janicik donated almost 500 hours to a range of community service organizations in 2011.
Simon Hartley – Located in Mayer Brown’s London office, Litigation & Dispute Resolution senior associate Simon Hartley has devoted hundreds of hours to the successful defense of eviction proceedings brought against the Green Rivers Community Association, a small UK charity that provides activities for children and teenagers located in an economically depressed area of Walsall, West Midlands.
After two years of difficult litigation, followed by settlement negotiations led by Mr. Hartley, a successful settlement was achieved. The charity received a 21-year lease, at a nominal rent. This settlement will allow their valuable work to continue, keep at-risk kids off the streets, and make it possible for them to improve their facilities.
Sarah Reynolds – Since joining the firm in 2005, Chicago Litigation & Dispute Resolution associate Sarah Reynolds has consistently dedicated more than 200—and sometimes more than 300—hours to pro bono each year.
A former peace corps volunteer, Sarah has devoted a significant amount of time to providing pro bono assistance to the International Friends of Belize, an organization committed to improving the education, health and environment of Belizean communities. In addition to her work for Friends of Belize, Ms. Reynolds has been involved in more than a dozen pro bono matters, including two very difficult indigent criminal defense matters where she was involved in both the trial and appeal—including presenting oral arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court.
Pro Bono Lifetime Achievement Award – Adrian Steel
A lawyer with Mayer Brown since 1981, Adrian Steel has been an active member of the firm’s pro bono committee for many years. As co-chair of the committee from 2005 through 2011, Mr. Steel was a driving force for many of the changes that have helped Mayer Brown’s pro bono program develop and adapt as the firm expanded in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Mr. Steel has been a member of the board of directors of Legal Counsel for the Elderly since 1984—serving as Chairman in 1989 and again from 2007 to 2008. In addition, he has been a member of the board of directors of the Ronald McDonald House since 1990—serving as Board President from 1995-1998. Mr. Steel has supervised and worked on numerous other pro bono matters throughout his career, and in 1988, was named the DC Bar’s “Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year.”
Mr. Steel also has spearheaded Mayer Brown’s volunteer efforts at Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that provides meals and comprehensive case management services to homeless men and women in the District of Columbia.