Williams & Connolly has a long-held commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”). We believe it is our duty and privilege to give back to the communities in which our business thrives and our employees and their families reside. We hope that by donating our time, experience, skills, and philanthropic support, we can help make a lasting impact on the social and economic challenges these communities face.
Williams & Connolly’s CSR program has three main areas of focus: Pro Bono, Community Service, and Charitable Giving.
Williams & Connolly has been nationally recognized for its lawyers’ significant commitment to pro bono work. Most noteworthy, for the past two decades, Williams & Connolly has partnered with the Maryland Public Defender’s Office to handle numerous felony trials and appeals. More than 200 Williams & Connolly attorneys have handled trial-level felony cases through this pro bono partnership that the Maryland Public Defender’s Office has hailed as an “amazing success.” Moreover, each year we provide 2-4 associates to the Maryland Public Defender’s Office for six-month paid secondments, where they work as full-fledged public defenders. Another highlight for the firm is our strong asylum and immigrants’ rights pro bono practice. The firm partners with the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and other organizations to represent numerous families currently seeking asylum. In the past, our work on asylum and immigrants’ rights cases has been recognized by Human Rights First, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Urban Affairs and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.
Additional representative pro bono matters have included representing plaintiffs in civil rights lawsuits, low-income individuals in the District of Columbia in housing and wage/benefits cases, military veterans in benefits appeals, and District of Columbia parolees in parole revocation hearings. The firm has been recognized by the D.C. Circuit Judicial Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services for the depth and breadth of its pro bono commitment. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program recognized the firm for its work with the Affordable Housing Preservation Project and the Landlord Tenant Resource Center, and for joining the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Partnership. Additionally, Bread for the City recently named the firm Pro Bono Legal Partner of the Year for its work on behalf of tenants.
The firm is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Initiative, and has launched a Consumer Law Resource Center with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program.
Though all cases vary and none is predictive, Williams & Connolly lawyers have achieved significant victories for pro bono clients at trial, on appeal, and at hearings. For example, the firm recently obtained a victory on behalf of a pro bono client before the U.S. Supreme Court in a matter involving the rights of disabled individuals before the Railroad Retirement Board, and handled a post-conviction death penalty case involving habeas review of the first federal death sentence handed down in the First Circuit. At trial, Williams & Connolly’s pro bono criminal clients were acquitted in cases involving charges of burglary, credit card and identity theft, assault, and others. The Maryland Court of Appeals twice overturned a Williams & Connolly client’s murder conviction after the firm tried the case. The firm also has obtained vacated convictions on appeal for its clients based on the state’s failure to turn over evidence to defense counsel prior to trial, for insufficiency of the evidence, on standing grounds to challenge a search, and by demonstrating the inapplicability of the transferred intent doctrine.
In asylum cases, firm lawyers successfully represented a political activist who had been persecuted in Cameroon, a missionary from the Congo, and received a grant of asylum after an evidentiary hearing for a family based on the fear that the women would face mutilation if forced to return to Egypt. The firm also successfully helped overturn in the Second Circuit a Board of Immigration Appeals decision denying asylum to women from Guinea. The Center for Gender and Refugee Studies has honored the firm for its outstanding contributions.
In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and others, the firm joined the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (“LFAA”), a consortium of over 275 law firms collectively dedicating pro bono resources to address systemic racism in a long-term and impactful way. As part of our work with LFAA, our attorneys are focusing on police reform and criminal justice reform.
Williams & Connolly employees also serve the community outside the courtroom. They volunteer to teach at Dunbar Senior High School, which earned the firm the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. In addition, Williams & Connolly has had a deep and long-standing commitment to the Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) law-themed charter high school in southeast Washington, D.C., since its founding in 2001. The firm continues to support the school financially, and several partners have served on the school’s board. Furthermore, lawyers and firm staff have taught, tutored, and mentored TMA students for over a decade. Indeed, the Academy named a classroom after firm founder Edward Bennett Williams in recognition of the firm’s support.
In addition, Williams & Connolly is working to broaden the pipeline of underrepresented students who attend law school by participating in the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Law Fellowship program, a program that places students of color with law firms for a paid internship the summer before those students begin law school. Similarly, we also are proud to partner with the Georgetown Law Center for its Early Outreach Initiative. This program targets outreach and support for high school students from underserved communities to encourage them to consider a legal career. As part of this program, the firm provides mentoring to dozens of high school students.
The firm also supports a number of local environmental organizations including City Blossoms, with whom our employees worked to re-build community gardens in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw and Anacostia neighborhoods, and the Anacostia Watershed Society, with whom we partnered to clean wetlands and collect seeds for planting.
Williams & Connolly sponsors, volunteers with and donates to many organizations that work to benefit and improve the communities we serve.
In the past decade, the firm has donated millions of dollars to charitable causes. For example, in 2020, as a concrete sign of the firm’s commitment to eliminating racial injustice and in commemoration of Juneteenth, the firm donated $150,000 to organizations that share this commitment: the Thurgood Marshall Academy, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the Equal Justice Initiative. This represented one of the largest donations at the time of any law firm in support of racial justice efforts, and was in addition to the firm’s many other significant charitable contributions.
We have a long history of partnering with legal defense organizations like the Washington Lawyers’ Committee and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In fact, Edward Bennett Williams was one of the founders of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. Senior Counsel David Kendall began his career at the NAACP as a trial attorney and currently serves on its Board of Directors.
The firm sponsors and partners with many organizations, including, but not limited to, the following: