We actively encourage our lawyers to provide pro bono legal representation and to participate in other charitable, community, educational, and professional activities.
Every attorney has the professional responsibility to provide pro bono services. In 2014 the firm’s lawyers recorded over 60,000 hours on approved pro bono matters. We work on hundreds of such matters each year. Among other things, we litigate civil rights cases, establish and advise nonprofit organizations, assist such organizations in transactions, and represent indigent persons in consumer, landlord-tenant, and immigration matters. In addition to providing legal assistance directly to individuals who have limited means but substantial civil legal needs, we provide legal counsel and public policy advocacy to help organizations advance their public-service programs, work to advance the rule of law around the world, and accept court appointments to provide pro bono counsel. Each year the firm highlights a selection of recent pro bono work and awards in a publication entitled For the Public Good.
The firm delivers pro bono services in cooperation with dozens of organizations and legal services programs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Cancer Council of Western Australia, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Children’s Law Center, Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, Habitat for Humanity, Her Justice, International Senior Lawyers Project, Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, National Immigrant Justice Center, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, Public Interest Law Clearing House, St. John’s Legal Centre, and Tahirih Justice Center.
Projects in which firm lawyers collaborate with clients and across offices are increasingly common. For example, since 2011 the W.I.L.L.S. project, carried out in collaboration with the legal department of MetLife, has produced wills, health care proxies, and powers of attorney for over 300 families of New York-area firefighters. In a similar effort, lawyers in North Carolina are working with Duke Energy and Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont to prepare simple wills and other estate planning documents for low-income seniors.
In another form of collaboration, lawyers from our Melbourne office have undertaken extended on-site service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land organizations in northern Australia. One pro bono project linked Aboriginal traditional knowledge of savanna burning with 21st-century financial products. We established a new nonprofit entity, Northern Indigenous Environmental Services Limited, to facilitate access to the emerging national and international markets for trading in carbon credits. Firm policy recognizes the value of extended placements with pro bono clients. In 2014-15 a New York attorney spent six months working with KIND in Los Angeles, helping to address the needs of a flood of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S.
The firm also undertakes pro bono impact litigation. In 2013 lawyers in our San Francisco and Palo Alto offices won an important victory on behalf of inmates in the California prison system, helping to convince the court that federal oversight of the state system is still necessary. Our lawyers then served as lead counsel in a trial addressing the State’s unconstitutional use of force against mentally ill inmates, secured an order halting that practice, and worked with the State to establish new protocols for the use of force. Lawyers in Seattle are working on a case that seeks to establish a right to legal representation for unaccompanied minors in U.S. removal proceedings. And a team of Washington, D.C. lawyers secured relief for a mentally handicapped man on death row in Texas.
K&L Gates has underscored its institutional support of pro bono activities in several ways. The firm is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, an aspirational pro bono standard for large law firms. K&L Gates treats all hours reasonably recorded on approved pro bono matters as the equivalent of billable hours in determining associate bonus eligibility. A firm-wide Pro Bono Committee oversees the firm’s pro bono programs in collaboration with Pro Bono Coordinators in each K&L Gates office. The Pro Bono Committee assesses the effectiveness of the firm’s pro bono efforts and provides leadership to ensure fulfillment of our professional obligations as lawyers.
Beyond pro bono legal representation, our lawyers and staff perform varied public service work in the communities where they live and work. This includes serving as members of governing bodies of educational institutions, youth sports and arts organizations, environmental groups, civic and cultural organizations, and health care and research institutions, as well as social service and community organizations. Additionally, many of our lawyers and staff provide community service through an array of teaching, mentoring, and other non-legal programs. In 2014 the American Lawyer honored our Global Day of Service as the Global CSR Initiative of the Year.