Twenty-nine law firms in Washington were honored this morning for their commitment to public service, meeting a benchmark of having at least 40 percent of their attorneys performing 50 hours or more of pro bono work.
Seven firms were also recognized for having 50 percent or more of their lawyers do at least 50 hours of pro bono work, and Jenner & Block received a special nod for having 45 percent of its partners meet the 50-hour benchmark.
Chief Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in his remarks that pro bono work remains as important as it was during the peak of the economic downturn.
“The problems that cause people to need pro bono services do not vanish when the economy gets better,” he said. He added that law firms “owe a service to the whole of society” in return for the right to function as an “oligopoly.”
More than 100 firms were eligible for consideration this year; to be eligible, firms must have a D.C. office and at least 25 attorneys.
Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in recognizing the seven firms with more than half of their attorneys meeting the 50-hour mark, praised Jenner & Block for the work done by its partners. He said there was no greater sign of a firm’s commitment to public service than the examples set by firm leaders.
Michael DeSanctis, managing partner of Jenner & Block’s Washington office, said after the ceremony that pro bono work “is truly part of our culture and in our blood.” He cited as an example the more than 900 pro bono hours that partner David DeBruin has spent on a murder case in District of Columbia Superior Court.
“It’s not just something you do because it’s assigned to you,” he said. DeSanctis said the firm’s pro bono work varies, but that they do a significant amount of work on human trafficking cases and on death row cases in coordination with the Southern Center for Human Rights.
The other six firms to have more than half of their attorneys do at least 50 hours of pro bono work were Arnold & Porter; Covington & Burling; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Paul Hastings; Ropes & Gray; and Shearman & Sterling.
The twenty-nine firms recognized were Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Arnold & Porter; Bryan Cave; Covington & Burling; Crowell & Moring; Debevoise & Plimpton; Dewey & LeBoeuf; DLA Piper; Foley & Lardner; Gilbert; Hogan Lovells; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Jenner & Block; Jones Day; King & Spalding; Mayer Brown; McDermott Will & Emery; Miller & Chevalier; Morrison & Foerster; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Patton Boggs; Paul Hastings; Ropes & Gray; Shearman & Sterling; Sidley Austin; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; SNR Denton; Steptoe & Johnson LLP; and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr.
National Law Journal photos by Zoe Tillman. Above, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge David Sentelle.
From left, U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, D.C. Bar CEO Katherine Mazzaferri and James Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation and co-chair of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services.
From left, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts and Covington & Burling senior counsel Thomas Williamson Jr., president-elect of the D.C. Bar.