Pro Bono

Williams & Connolly encourages its attorneys to undertake pro bono matters that serve the public interest, that are matched to the talents of our attorneys, and that provide good experiences for our young lawyers.

Pro bono work at the firm encompasses a wide range of criminal and civil issues, and over the years has included death penalty cases, Title VII race discrimination and retaliatory discharge claims, Section 1983 suits protesting prison conditions, political asylum cases, representation of news organizations in various first amendment challenges, representation of mental health organizations protesting experimentation on institutionalized individuals, preparation of amicus briefs on various constitutional issues, protection of endangered species, service as mediators in court-appointed ADR proceedings, and corporate and litigation services to organizations assisting the homeless. We also provide a broad array of services to a number of nonprofit organizations on an ongoing basis.

Pro bono representation must be approved by the firm's Pro Bono Committee. Individual attorneys may bring proposed cases to the Committee for its consideration, or may choose from the cases identified by the Committee from the many resources available to it. Once approved, pro bono work is treated as a professional commitment of equal importance to paying work (including dedication of firm resources, treatment as billable time, partner supervision, etc.).

Some examples of current/recent pro bono cases:

  • Criminal cases, most involving felonies and other serious offenses, obtained through the firm's partnership with the Public Defenders' Office in Montgomery County, Maryland. Over 40 W&C lawyers, the majority of whom are associates, have participated in this program to date. The Public Defenders' Office has called the partnership an "amazing success."
  • Representation, in an evidentiary hearing before the Immigration Court, of an Egyptian family seeking asylum in the U.S. based on the fear that two young daughters would be forcibly subjected to female genital mutilation, as the mother and eldest daughter had been, if required to return to Egypt. The firm received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs for its successful work on this case.
  • Post-conviction representation of a mentally retarded man who has been sentenced to death in Louisiana. The case, brought to us by the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, may be one of the first to test implementation of the Supreme Court's recent opinion curtailing execution of mentally retarded individuals.
  • The firm was honored at an October 2003 conference sponsored by the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project and Hofstra University School of Law for its commitment to handling death penalty cases.
  • Representation, in Grutter v. Bollinger, of a group of law school deans in an amicus brief in both the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, in support of the admission program utilized by the University of Michigan Law School. The Supreme Court decision in that case upheld the constitutionality of the law school's admission program.
  • Challenges, under the Endangered Species Act, seeking protection of the Puerto Rican guajon and Atlantic white marlin.
  • Representation of the Association of Defense Counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ADC-ICTY), the official bar of defense lawyers practicing before the ICTY, in connection with efforts by the Treasury Department, and its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), to regulate American attorneys practicing before the ICTY.
  • Ongoing representation of a Paralympian (confined to a wheelchair) in her efforts to participate in various athletic endeavors.
  • Litigation on behalf of TrueVote Maryland, a nonprofit organization, to permit the organization to have access to polling places in Maryland during the 2004 Presidential election.
  • Successful representation of an elderly widow in danger of having her home foreclosed by a lender that was arguably guilty of predatory lending practices.

In addition to the pro bono cases undertaken by the firm, Williams & Connolly attorneys are involved in a wide variety of charitable and community service activities. The firm contributes financially to a large number of charitable endeavors, and recently received special recognition for its $25,000 contribution to the D.C. Bar Foundation, which provides grants to 25 legal services providers in the District of Columbia.

Both lawyers and staff have been actively involved in the D.C. public schools. The firm was selected by the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs to be a recipient of the Committee's 1999 Outstanding Achievement Award, in recognition of the firm's commitment and success in building a pro bono partnership with Dunbar Senior High School. In recent years, attorneys and staff also have volunteered their time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a law-oriented public charter high school -- mentoring students, organizing fundraising activities, and serving on the school's governing body.

Williams & Connolly attorneys and staff serve their communities outside the firm as well -- volunteering, leading, and giving their financial support to, a wide range of charities, religious organizations, and schools in their communities.

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