The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Proskauer Attorneys Assist New York State Courts’ Pandemic Practices Working Group

The Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts established the Pandemic Practices Working Group (PPWG) to investigate, evaluate, and report on the successes of, and challenges faced by, the state court system during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. To that end, the PPWG held its first Public Hearing on Pandemic Practices on June 7th, 2022 in Albany, New York. This hearing served an agenda-setting purpose for the PPWG, highlighting the most pressing issues facing stakeholders within the state court system. Thirty-seven witnesses participated from across New York State to share their unique perspectives.

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Bloomberg and Proskauer Sponsor Equal Justice Works Fellow at the ACLU Voting Rights Project

Bloomberg and Proskauer are sponsoring Equal Justice Works Fellow Casey Smith, who will work at the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. Casey, a recent graduate of Yale Law School, will contribute to the defense of individuals unjustly prosecuted for voting. Casey also will help to develop impact litigation that challenges statutes imposing harsh penalties upon people who vote without realizing they are ineligible to do so.

In this interview, Casey discusses her important work. Continue Reading

Proskauer Advises NGO Funding Recycling Projects in Brazil

For the past five months, Proskauer has acted as pro bono counsel to Instituto Recicleiros (Recicleiros), a Brazilian non-profit, in obtaining a grant from the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). AEPW is an industry-founded non-profit dedicated to funding projects to reduce, and ultimately end, plastic waste.

Brazil has long struggled to properly manage solid waste, as many cities do not provide for proper collection, treatment and disposal of solid waste. This deficiency has resulted in the proliferation of informal dump sites (lixões) that generate public health and environmental hazards. The recent enactment of Brazil’s National Policy for Solid Waste Management requires private companies to comply with recycling requirements and integrate the use of recycled materials into their production processes. Other regulations stipulate that municipalities must ensure that there are proper disposal options, including the recycling of solid materials. Continue Reading

Supporting Our Nation’s Veterans Through Career Guidance

Veteran affairs is a key focus area of our corporate social responsibility and pro bono work, and since 2018, Proskauer has been a proud sponsor of American Corporate Partners (ACP). Through ACP, our talented employees mentor veterans and military spouses with career guidance as they transition from the military to civilian life. On Wednesday, May 25th we met virtually with nearly 100 ACP mentees and alumni. Karen Carbone, Proskauer’s Director of Human Resources and Mark Bunbury, our Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusion led an impactful workshop on resume writing and interview preparation. They shared tips for virtual interviews which exploded during the pandemic and are likely here to stay, as well as best practices for resume writing. Combined, Mark and Karen have decades of experience in human resources across the legal and banking industries. The executives from ACP, who organized the webinar with us, include Richard Comitz, Senior Vice President and Matthew Peirce, Operations Associate. Continue Reading

Pro Bono as Ikigai: Finding Your Purpose through Public Service

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month and Well-Being Week in Law, Proskauer’s Senior Manager of Wellness, Tracey Saliski, brought Brianne Gallo and me together for a discussion about finding purpose in life and work through participation in public service at Proskauer. It was a privilege to present on this topic with Brianne, who is a psychotherapist and licensed master social worker on the team of Guide+Thrive consultants that support Proskauer’s wellness initiatives. I am pleased to share this recap of our presentation.

Brianne: Today’s well-being topic is “embracing one’s purpose,” and I’d like to start our conversation by defining what we mean by “purpose.” I find that the Japanese concept of “ikigai” is a helpful way to think about purpose. The word “ikigai” combines the terms “iki” – meaning “life” – and “gai” – meaning “worth.” Taken together, it means “that which gives your life worth.” In other words, it is your reason for being. It’s what gives your life meaning.

Erin: You have shared with me that people can find their “ikigai” at the intersection of 1) what they love, 2) what they’re good at, 3) what the world needs, and 4) what they can be paid for. If we imagine a Venn diagram with those four circles intersecting, I think we’d find the words “pro bono” written in the center! Pro bono is an opportunity to apply your skills toward something you love – something you care about – in service of others who have a need for free legal representation, all while being paid to do it as a Proskauer employee. In other words, “pro bono” is “ikigai” – doing pro bono work gives your life worth and meaning.

Brianne: Exactly. Participating in public service at Proskauer is a great way to add purpose to one’s life and career. Having a sense of purpose both inside and outside of the workplace is essential to our well-being, not only because it gives us a reason for being but also because there are scientifically proven physical and mental health benefits that come from knowing and striving to fulfill your purpose in life. For example, it has been shown that people who feel a sense of purpose are more likely to experience increased longevity, reduced risk of mortality, and better abilities to manage and reduce physical pain. Having a feeling of purpose in life can also reduce your risk of depression and suicidal ideation, and can even prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Erin: That sounds like all the more reasons to volunteer and do pro bono work! Personally speaking, I feel blessed to have identified several causes that I am particularly passionate about, and to have a career that allows me to use my skills to advance those causes. But sometimes it can be difficult to figure out one’s purpose. What’s your advice for someone still trying to identify their purpose?

Brianne: I recommend that people start by focusing on curiosity and interest. What are you naturally curious about? What are the things that really interest you? Ask yourself questions like, “What is one thing that I can talk about for hours with my family or friends? What is one thing that I enjoy doing even if I don’t always succeed at it?” From there, begin thinking about what drives your passion. Often our passion stems from our own experiences of pain or times when we have felt compassion for others. Ask yourself, “Is there something difficult I’ve overcome in my life that I’d like to share with the world? How do I want to serve society?”

Erin: I often say that I am a “pro bono matchmaker” because my role is to help connect people to pro bono matters that they find meaningful. Proskauer has a wide range of public service opportunities available across many different subject areas – immigration, veterans’ benefits, special education, voting rights, gun safety, criminal law reform, gender justice, and more. I am always happy to have a one-on-one conversation to help someone explore these options and find a public service project that would increase their feeling of purpose. We also offer extensive training and mentoring so that people can learn new skills and feel comfortable taking on pro bono cases in areas of the law that may be unfamiliar to them.

Brianne: You raise a good point – if you want to feel purpose in life, it’s not enough to just be passionate about something without having expertise or taking action on that passion. It’s when we combine our skillsets with a cause we care about, and we take concrete steps in support of that cause, that we achieve a feeling of purpose. When we have a strong sense of purpose, we also increase our level of resiliency – our ability to overcome the challenges that we encounter in our daily lives and in our efforts to fulfill our mission.

Erin: I think you’ve just highlighted yet another way in which finding purpose through doing pro bono work enhances our well-being. We can develop vicarious resilience by serving pro bono clients who have encountered many challenges in life but have nevertheless continued to thrive. When I am feeling stressed or discouraged, I think about my pro bono clients who have been role models of strength in the face of adversity, and about how meaningful it has been for me to play a role in helping them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. I also think about how meaningful it is to be part of a community of like-minded people at Proskauer who share my passion for public service.

Brianne: I think that’s a great example of how meaning in life comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself.

Erin: I am thankful to everyone at the firm who is involved in our pro bono and corporate social responsibility efforts. Together we are finding purpose in making a difference in the world and in our communities.

Proskauer Files Suit for Immigrant Mother and Daughter Harmed by Family Separation Policy

Proskauer, with co-counsel Public Counsel and Squire Patton Boggs, has filed a complaint in Arizona Federal Court on behalf of a mother and daughter from Guatemala who were forcibly separated after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump Administration’s family separation policy. The lawsuit comes after negotiations with the Biden Administration over a potential nationwide settlement for separated families fell apart last fall.

The mother and then-teenage daughter escaped violence in their country of origin only to be detained and separated after entering the United States. Shortly after crossing the border at San Luis, Arizona, Customs and Border Patrol officers apprehended them and transported them to a Border Patrol station in Yuma, Arizona. They were placed in a cold, windowless cell without beds, showers, or private toilets. Approximately four days after arriving in the United States, officers came to forcibly separate the family.

During the forced separation, the daughter fainted, hitting her face on the floor. Her mother, who only speaks a Mayan language called Q’eqchi’, was not given any information about her daughter’s whereabouts or wellbeing in a language she could understand until almost a month later when Public Counsel began representing her.

During the separation, U.S. officials took the daughter to a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona while the mother was taken to a detention center in Irvine, California, more than 300 miles away. Almost two months after their separation, they were reunited after the mother was released on bond. Neither one was ever charged with a crime. Both suffered severe and lasting emotional harm as a result of the U.S. government’s inhumane treatment. The family is now pursuing asylum claims in the United States.

This case is one of several individual lawsuits brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) against the U.S. government for compensatory damages on behalf of separated families. The FTCA was enacted in 1946 and provides a means of compensating individuals who have suffered personal injury, death, or property loss or damage caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission by an employee of the U.S government.

The Proskauer team is led by partner Manuel Cachán and associates Tim Burroughs, Hena Vora, and William Rose.

Addressing Race and Poverty in the NYS Family Court

As a board member of Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), a non-profit organization that helps unrepresented litigants in New York City Family Court, I was proud to help organize a recent panel discussion addressing race and poverty in the New York State Family Court. Moderated by LIFT Executive Director Cathy Cramer, the panelists included the Honorable Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge; former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; and Proskauer Pro Bono Partner, Bill Silverman. Secretary Johnson is responsible for a recent report on institutional racism in the New York State Court System, where he characterized certain courts, including the Family Court, as providing a “second class system of justice for people of color in New York State.” Bill Silverman co-authored a recent report on behalf of the New York City Bar Association and the Fund for Modern Courts which addressed the impact of COVID-19 on the New York City Family Court and how the crisis laid bare longstanding inequities. Judge Mendelson is responsible for the Court’s justice initiatives. Continue Reading

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