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Mayer Brown honors pro bono efforts with 2014 Pro Bono Awards

11 July 2014
Mayer Brown, a leading global law firm, announced the winners of its eighth annual Pro Bono Awards, which honor the outstanding achievements by the firm’s lawyers in providing legal services to individuals and groups with limited means and to organizations seeking to protect civil liberties and human rights.

In 2013, Mayer Brown played a significant role in a wide range of pro bono matters around the globe focused on access to justice, world hunger, civil rights, poverty, and advocating for the institutionalization of pro bono outside the US.

“Pro bono is a vital part of the legal profession and our culture at Mayer Brown, and we are deeply committed to leveraging the firm’s global platform and world-class resources to serve those in need,” said Marc Kadish, Mayer Brown’s Director of Pro Bono Activities and Litigation Training. “In 2013, the firm’s lawyers dedicated their time to an impressive range of projects that affected change at both the global and the individual levels.”

A complete list of the 2014 award recipients follows:

Pro Bono Office of the Year – Washington DC
Lawyers in Mayer Brown’s Washington DC office were honored for providing pro bono legal assistance on a multitude of matters in 2013, from issues of national and global significance, to personal matters affecting the lives of just a few. Among the many projects were: filing amicus briefs on behalf of members of the United States Congress in the Defense of Marriage Act litigation; providing legal services to the National Coalition for the Homeless and to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth; helping the family of a US-affiliated Iraqi man who was murdered resettle in the US; securing social security disability benefits for a transgendered individual; handling a death penalty case that settled after 16 years of litigation and a prisoners’ rights case that resulted in a $50,000 jury verdict; leading a project on coral reef protection with the Vance Center For International Justice and providing environmental law assistance to The Nature Conservancy; and helping elderly, low-income individuals obtain wills and advance directives.

Pro Bono Project of the Year – LGBTI Rights in the Americas
Mayer Brown lawyers in five offices were recognized for their involvement in leading a research project on behalf of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice. The project studied violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Americas, specifically looking at laws that protect LGBTI individuals, as well as laws that have been used to criminally or civilly sanction them. The results are being used to report on violence and other human rights violations against LGBTI persons in member states of the Organization of American States, and will also be used to advocate for laws that protect LGBTI individuals. The team devoted more than 500 hours to the project.

Led by Litigation & Dispute Resolution associate Evan Wooten (Los Angeles), the team included Mayer Brown lawyers in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, as well as lawyers in Brazil from Tauil & Chequer Advogados in association with Mayer Brown. The project also involved lawyers from local law firms in 24 countries through the Americas, with Mayer Brown acting as international coordinating counsel for the project.

Pro Bono Transactional Matter of the Year – Medair
Mayer Brown lawyers in Europe and the US were honored for providing legal assistance to Medair, an organization that sends humanitarian aid and basic recovery support to people in need around the world. Medair’s relief workers rely on a range of agreements covering every aspect of their work; so when outdated, inconsistent contracts began hindering Medair’s ability to fulfill its mission, Mayer Brown stepped in to help.

Partnering with lawyers from Caterpillar, a team of Mayer Brown attorneys from Brussels, Chicago, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London and Paris undertook the enormous task of reviewing, updating and drafting Medair’s agreements. Led by Tax Transactions & Consulting counsel Charles Helleputte (Brussels), Chair of the firm’s European Pro Bono Committee, the team succeeded in creating a consistent set of easy-to-use agreement templates and tools, as well as a range of internal policies used daily to support Medair’s operations in the field. Lawyers from Caterpillar and Mayer Brown collectively devoted more than 360 hours to the matter.

Pro Bono Litigation Matter of the Year – human trafficking
Mayer Brown recognized a team of lawyers who assisted the Worker Justice Center of New York in representing migrant farmworkers who were victims of human trafficking. The firm became involved in 2011, partnering with the Worker Justice Center in representing the human trafficking victims in asserting their claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

The New York-based team successfully obtained a confidential settlement with the corporate defendant and a default judgment of almost $2.5 million, devoting 2,140 hours to the project and spending 681 hours in 2013 alone. The team included associates Allison Stowell (Litigation & Dispute Resolution), Meghan Silver (Tax Controversy) and Hamsa Mahendranathan (Litigation & Dispute Resolution), with help from supervising partner Steve Wolowitz (Litigation & Dispute Resolution).

Pro Bono Asia Matter of the Year – World Bank
While pro bono work remains less available and less institutionalized in Asia than in the US, Mayer Brown’s offices in Asia are making great strides in the effort to increase pro bono representation in that region. Since 2011, Mayer Brown JSM has been assisting Advocates for International Development on a research project with the World Bank to review business laws and regulations in more than 185 countries, with the goal of identifying the types of business regulations that are most favorable to economic growth and development. More than 50 lawyers from Mayer Brown’s Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Bangkok offices collaborated with lawyers in the firm’s European and US offices to conduct a wide range of legal research on behalf of this important ongoing global project.

The results are presented in World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” report, the institution’s best-selling publication. In 2013, the World Bank team in Asia devoted 379 hours to the matter.

Pro Bono Lawyers of the Year
The following individuals 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.

Pro Bono Partner of the Year – Jonathan Medow
Litigation & Dispute Resolution partner Jonathan Medow (Chicago) was honored for his stellar representation of Darnel West, a man who was charged with first-degree murder. Mr. West and his brother were attacked by a group of men as they attempted to enter a convenience store in Chicago. Various video cameras captured only parts of what were multiple attacks, and eyewitnesses saw only certain parts of the full events. However, Mr. Medow was able to do what the prosecution was unwilling to do – spend the time to piece together the videos, enabling him to compile the series of events that resulted in Mr. West killing one of his attackers in self-defense. Using the chronological video that he created, Mr. Medow was able to refute the state’s eyewitnesses and obtain a not-guilty verdict. Mr. Medow devoted nearly 362 hours to the case.

The Darnel West case marks the third major pro bono criminal case in which Mr. Medow has been involved. In 2005, he and several associates worked on a sexual assault case and after a jury trial in 2006, they earned an acquittal for the client because his DNA did not match the evidence found in the case. The man had spent 14 months behind bars. And in 2011, Mr. Medow represented a man who was charged with first degree murder and secured a plea agreement for a lesser charge.

Pro Bono Counsel of the Year – Malte Richter
In Germany—with only a few exceptions—the provision of free legal advice has historically been prohibited by legal ethics laws. Mayer Brown has been one of the law firms challenging this prohibition, and in 2007 it founded the Frankfurt Pro Bono Roundtable, along with several other international law firms. The Roundtable’s goal is to explore ways to put pro bono work in Germany on a more solid legal footing.

Malte Richter, a Corporate & Securities counsel in Frankfurt, is heavily involved with the Roundtable. In 2010, he was instrumental in setting up the first German pro bono organization, Pro Bono Deutschland, with help from senior counsel John Faylor (Corporate & Securities, Frankfurt). This was a landmark event for pro bono in Germany. Pro Bono Deutschland aims to: improve the framework of conditions for undertaking pro bono work under statutory law, as well as under professional codes of conduct; advocate engagement by lawyers to provide pro bono legal advice; and refer pro bono cases between member firms.

In addition, Mr. Richter has spent almost four years providing IP and corporate restructuring advice to Goodweave, a not-for-profit organization that works to end child labor in the handmade carpet industry.

Pro Bono Associate of the Year – Josh Marinelli
A New York-based Banking & Finance lawyer, Mr. Marinelli devoted 457 hours to pro bono work in 2013. His primary role in pro bono matters was serving as team leader on the BRAC Africa Fund project. BRAC is a Bangladeshi nongovernmental organization with dual objectives of reducing poverty and empowering the poor. BRAC’s approach includes economic development through microfinance lending, business development services and agricultural technical assistance, and social development through health, education, human rights and other programs.

Most notably, Mr. Marinelli and a team of Mayer Brown lawyers provided pro bono representation to BRAC on the financing of a multijurisdictional, multicurrency credit facility worth $17.5 million. The facility is intended to support BRAC’s current microfinance operations in Uganda and Tanzania, as well as future operations in Sierra Leone.

In addition to his work with BRAC, Mr. Marinelli has spent almost 200 hours providing pro bono assistance to Community Access, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that helps people with psychiatric disabilities transition from shelters and hospitals to independent living.

Pro Bono Lifetime Achievement Award – Julie Dickins
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors a lifetime commitment to pro bono and community service, as well as to Mayer Brown’s pro bono program. Julie Dickins retired in April after 34 years with the firm, the latter 16 years of which she coordinated the firm’s UK pro bono and community service work and charitable donations.

Under Julie’s leadership, Mayer Brown’s London office became an industry leader in pushing the concept of pro bono legal service in Europe. Total pro bono hours in the firm’s European offices increased significantly. In 2006 and 2010, Mayer Brown’s London office received the award for “Best Contribution by a Law Firm” from LawWorks, the best-known referral organization of UK pro bono work. And in 2009, the London office undertook more projects referred by Advocates for International Development than any other law firm.

In addition to her significant work on behalf of Mayer Brown, Julie also has been a trustee of LawWorks and a council member of PILnet, an organization that works to develop the rule of law in order to deliver justice and protect human rights.

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