Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pro bono record in the making?

If the defense of former Illinois governor George Ryan counts towards pro bono work, expect to see Winston & Strawn high atop the national pro bono firm ranking charts this year.
The cost of devoting Dan Webb, the firm's top litigator, and a small army of other lawyers to Ryan's criminal defense reportedly has cost Winston & Strawn almost $20 million. The tab stood at $10 million in November, the firm said. Indirect costs, such as a loss of new clients, are impossible to measure.***************************** Winston's pro bono work in the Ryan case is almost unprecedented, said legal experts who struggled to cite similar situations*********************************** One thing the Ryan case has done is broaden the definition of pro bono work, lawyers say. The phrase is short for pro bono publico, which is Latin for "for the public good." Pro bono work is defined differently by different firms and legal organizations, but it traditionally refers to legal work provided at no cost to clients who are too poor to pay for an attorney.
The whole story is here.

Pro bono trial selected as one of 2005's best

It is gratifying to see a pro bono trial like this getting the attention it deserves. Here it is as reported in The Business Review:
Whiteman Osterman profiling case named to list of top pro-bono cases

A pro-bono case handled by a partner at the Albany, N.Y., law firm of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP was selected as one of the Top Trials of 2005 by New York Law Journal magazine. The case, handled by partner Scott Fein, has cost $1.5 million in lawyers fees and expenses since it was launched in 1992.

The case, Brown versus State, involved racial profiling in Oneonta in 1992 following the rape of an elderly woman in that college town. The woman identified her assailant as a young black man, and police believed the suspect may have fled towards the SUNY Oneonta campus. The police asked for a list of all black male students at the college and then interviewed all of them. The police also began questioning all nonwhite individuals found in the town. The lawsuit was designed to force the New York state Police to adopt a policy barring racial profiling. When the State Police refused the lawsuit was launched. The 13-year case was finally heard in 2005. On Oct. 28, 2005, following trial in the New York state Court of Claims, Judge Thomas McNamara ruled that the Constitutional rights of one woman in the class action suit were violated by the 1992 street sweep. On Feb. 14,2006 he ruled that the Constitutional rights of one of the men in the suit were also violated. The judge dismissed the claims of the other 58 litigants in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs have filed notice to appeal the decision. The magazine highlighted 15 trials in four categories: civil rights, professional conduct, public policy and corporate crimes. The cases are determined to have major news impact and highlight legal principals. The case, the New York Law Journal reported, received international attention.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

At "the pen" with Penn

This novel approach to pro bono work is really very interesting:
Penn Law students are teaching a 10-week legal studies course at the Graterford State Prison, at no charge to the inmates. And this group is only one of many from the Penn Law school involved in such pro bono work. Penn Law currently requires its students to participate in 70 hours of law-related public service in order to graduate. According to Susan Feathers, the director of Penn Law's Public Service Program, the pro bono projects are "at the core of the Penn Law experience."
I truly believe that access to the rule of law promotes understanding and respect for it. U Penn and its law students are doing a fine job of it. The rest of the story is here. Nice going everybody.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Strange case contest

I'm giving a prize for the strangest pro bono case anyone can describe to me within the next week. Please send your entries to me at my e-mail address, which you can find in my profile in the bottom left hand corner of this web page.

Death penalty gone wild

This is self explanatory. Even the most well intentioned legal systems can go haywire. The rule of law is no protection from the arbitrary, heavy hand of a grim reaper supported by the majority of a country's population. Let's not go there.

Biloxi Winter Wonderland

I am putting this video back up in the hope that I can persuade you to view it! The Gulf Coast remains in desperate need of our help. Ask anyone who has been there. What is wrong with this picture? Why can't we seem to get the job done down there? Are things really as bad as they look? Well, look here and see!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Attention all citizens!

If you do not have access to the benefits of the rule of law, then how can you be expected to have much respect for it? Mass rallies by immigrants these past few days serve as stark examples of the underserved millions of our country's inhabitants (regardless of citizenship status) who will, along with the rest of us, determine the future directions of our collective society. Will they be law abiding? Not if they start off as felons, and not if there are no pro bono lawyers willing to help them. It's as simple as that. I remember thinking many years ago that the newly enacted federal 55 m.p.h. speed limit law would make law breakers for the first time out of a huge number of previously law abiding citizens. This would not be good, I thought then, because respect for the law is essential to our social fabric, and it's awfully hard to respect the law when you break it every day on the way to work. Just as no one should be above the law, no one should be beneath it. These folks need our help, not the back of our hand. Let's give it to them, pro bono publico.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hunton & Williams shows the way with pro bono fellowship

I really have to hand it to Hunton & Williams. This is what is known as "walking the pro bono walk."
University [of Virginia] Law student Kate Duvall was recently selected as a Hunton & Williams Pro Bono Fellow, a prestigious position given to one graduating Law student every two years. Duvall said she will begin her job at Hunton & Williams next fall, after she passes the bar exam. She will be working full time at the firm's pro bono office in Richmond. Duvall said she will be helping individuals who cannot afford legal assistance. "Pro bono essentially means your clients can't afford to pay you," Duvall said. The fellowship is two years long, so Duvall will be with the firm until October 2008, said George Hettrick, pro bono partner for Hunton & Williams. ******************************************* The firm will not only give Duvall a salary, but will offer her $10,000 for the two years she will work there in order to help pay back her student loans, Duvall said.
The complete story is here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pro bono derivatives for Ethiopian famine relief? See Weil Gotshal & Manges

Now here's an interesting idea:

Seldom do derivatives attorneys have a crack at big, satisfying pro bono matters that call specifically on their rarified legal expertise. But such was the case with Conrad G. Bahlke, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who coordinated a team of lawyers from the firm's Paris, London and New York offices in providing legal counsel to the United Nations World Food Programme and the World Bank for a unique pilot famine relief program in Ethiopia.

According to Mr. Bahlke, a contract with a French reinsurance group provides $7.1 million in contingency funding based on a derivative index of rainfall data gathered from 26 weather stations across Ethiopia. Payout would be triggered if data collected between now and October indicate a rainy season significantly below historic averages, pointing to crop failure affecting as many as 17 million poor farmers.

Read the whole article in New York Lawyer . Nice going, Mr. Bahlke.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Law is cool

I really like this guy:

David P. Baugh loves the law and loves being a lawyer. He's a Richmond criminal-law attorney who has made a reputation representing the good, the bad and the ugly -- all with vigor because the system promises every accused person a competent defense.

"Every time the government loses a criminal case, the wall that separates the citizens from oppression is shored up just a little bit more," he said.

Baugh, 58, described the kind of lawyer he is by saying he is "a better lawyer than I am a human being. I believe in the canons. I believe in the rules and I try to abide by them." He said he is dedicated to the law and fortunate to be in that profession. "It's lucrative. It's important. And it's sort of cool," he said.

How is it cool? "In the old days when the cattlemen and the sheepherders would get in a war, they'd hire a gunfighter," Baugh said. "Now they hire a lawyer."

One of the canons Baugh tries to abide by calls for lawyers to perform "pro bono" legal work for little or no compensation. The term comes from the Latin phrase "pro bono publico," meaning for the public good.

On April 26, Baugh will be presented the 2006 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award for his work in pro bono defense of the First Amendment, "his zealous defense of indigent criminal defendants in complex court-appointed cases for nominal compensation" and his dedication to teaching other members of the criminal defense bar.

The Powell Award is named for the late justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from Richmond. It will be presented during the annual Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Conference at the University of Virginia.

You can read the whole story here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Darfur, Darfur, Darfur!

I can't say this often enough. Please read this article:
Darfur: the awful silence It's not just the West, the Muslim world isn't interested either.

Tulane: Back to the future

This is a really nice open letter. If this reflects anywhere near the spirit of today's law students, we are in very good shape for the future.
A Letter to the U.Va. Law Community By Visiting Tulane Students Dear Virginia Law community, Thank you. We, the students from Tulane and Loyola law schools who joined your school last fall, were lucky. Driven out of New Orleans by a storm, we were the lucky group who found ourselves taken in by the students, faculty and staff of the University of Virginia School of Law. While some of us lost our clothes, our computers, our music, and our homes, we all gained something by being in Charlottesville. For four months you became our teachers, our advisors and our peers. You gave us books and beds. You gave us support, and you gave us your friendship. In return, we offer you the thanks of students who are forever grateful. As the Dean of Tulane Law School said recently, we offer you a promise that we stand ready to return your kindness, at any time, should something like this ever happen to you, a promise which we hope never to have to fulfill. Now, two months removed from our time in Virginia, we find ourselves back home in a very different New Orleans. It is a city who has lost many of her best sons and daughters not so much to death as to dispersal. But as its citizens return, New Orleans is a city with a new hope that it will not forever be the city that care forgot and the "Big Easy." Rather, we hope that our city, re-energized by a returning diaspora, will live up to its finer history of rich culture and diversity. We hope that our city will move confidently towards being who we as lawyers purport to be: pro bono publico. On behalf of eleven grateful law students, we send this letter to say that we will never forget what you did for us. So for the classes, for your friendship, and for our second home at the University of Virginia. Thank you. Claire Adams Sean Brett Alyssa Carducci Brad Embree

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Too much pro bono?

Boston's lawyers pride themselves on the work they do for free. It's a way for them to give back, and it's a major recruiting tool. But as top firms cast an increasingly critical eye on the line between public service and profit, some fear good will could end up lost in the balance. By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff March 5, 2006
Here is the rest of the story.

More about Linklaters and Charity Bank

Linklaters has advised on a groundbreaking piece of pro bono work that has allowed a charitable financial institution to raise capital through a debt issue.
Here is the whole story.