The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Proskauer Launches a New Partnership with the Chinese-American Planning Council

Education and social justice have long been core pillars of Proskauer’s commitment to public service. Despite the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our corporate social responsibility programs have enabled lawyers and business services professionals throughout the Firm to connect with student groups across the country for engaging, interactive workshops focusing on college and career readiness topics. Expanding that mission, this week we are pleased to launch a new partnership with the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) and its “Learn and Earn” youth-focused programming.

Founded in 1965, CPC empowers Asian American, immigrant, and low-income communities in New York City by ensuring they have equitable access to the resources and opportunities needed to thrive. Today, CPC is the nation’s largest Asian American social services organization, supporting 60,000 individuals and families. The “Learn and Earn” program is a year-round afterschool enrichment program for high school juniors and seniors. Youth are actively engaged in leadership development, college preparedness, career exploration, community service, internships, and more. Continue Reading

Legal Obstacles to Women Living in Poverty During the Pandemic: A Conversation with Her Justice

Proskauer was privileged to host a panel presentation with Her Justice this month to raise awareness of economic and legal obstacles facing women who are living in poverty in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel was moderated by Proskauer associate Elizabeth Siegel, a member of the Her Justice Junior Advisory Board, and featured Her Justice attorneys Hamra Ahmad, Anna Maria Diamanti, and Prathiba Desai. With support from pro bono lawyers at Proskauer and other law firms, Her Justice provides family law and immigration representation to women of limited means, most of whom are mothers and survivors of intimate partner violence.

Among other obstacles, the panelists highlighted the many hurdles the public health crisis has caused for low-income women seeking legal relief in family court. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing family court was challenging for Her Justice’s clients because the court required them to appear in person. Clients often had to wait several hours even for a brief appearance, which was particularly difficult and financially burdensome for those who needed to arrange for child care or time off from work. At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the New York City Family Court closed except for “essential services” such as emergency proceedings for orders of protection, which are being heard virtually. While the ability to obtain orders of protection during the pandemic is critical for vulnerable women, participating in virtual hearings has created yet another set of challenges for women living in poverty who may not be able to access the technology needed for remote hearings. The lack of access to a stable internet connection and a confidential location to safely discuss sensitive legal issues has proven to be especially difficult.

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The Art of Public Service: Pro Bono Assistance for Low-Income Artists

In late March, Proskauer hosted a virtual clinic with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) to provide legal consultations for low-income artists. VLA holds a special place in the hearts of Proskauer attorneys, especially given that Proskauer associates founded VLA in 1969. One of the artists that my team advised at the clinic is a young filmmaker who was navigating collaboration agreements for the first time. It was both enjoyable to speak with the client about their goals for the film project, and rewarding to raise questions and offer suggestions for how they could protect their creative and financial interests going forward. The client gained a critical understanding of what was important to memorialize in their contracts and relationships to ensure that their project would be successful and free from disputes.

I volunteered at the VLA clinic because my own love of the arts played a large role in my childhood. I grew up performing in musicals and taking voice and piano lessons. In college, I realized I did not want to pursue a career as a performer and became interested in law school with the hope that I could one day represent and advocate for artists as a lawyer. I saw the value in bringing my personal passion, experience, and understanding of art to that legal representation. Then I found a dual-degree program at Columbia University where I could pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Theatre Management & Producing at the same time as a law degree. Through the MFA program, I took courses in theatre management, producing, accounting, budgeting, and contract drafting for producers. I knew that studying the business of theatre  would better prepare me to serve clients in the arts when the opportunity arose. Continue Reading

A Seven-Year Journey from Asylum to U.S. Citizenship: Reflections on LGBTQ Immigrant Justice

In 2014, I had the privilege of representing two extraordinary young asylum seekers who had fled from Macedonia, where, because they are a gay couple, they had suffered extreme homophobic violence and sexual abuse at the hands of civilians and police officers.  In 2021, I had the honor of helping them become U.S. citizens.

In reflecting on my clients’ seven-year journey to United States citizenship, I am reminded of how much has changed, but also how much has unfortunately remained the same and how far we have yet to go in the pursuit of LGBTQ human rights both at home and abroad.

The first of my two Macedonian clients arrived in the U.S. in 2012, and the second client joined him here in May 2013, just one month before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013).  In Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), through which Congress had sought to define “marriage” and “spouse” in more than 1,000 federal laws and federal regulations in a way that excluded same-sex spouses, thereby depriving them of the benefits that would come with federal recognition of their marriages and imposing “a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter same-sex marriages.”  Id. at 770.  The Supreme Court found that DOMA deprived gay and lesbian married couples of equal liberty under the Fifth Amendment because it interfered with the equal dignity of marriages under State laws recognizing marriage between same-sex spouses. Continue Reading

Learning and Re-Learning Our U.S. History with Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste”

Have you read Caste? Partnership With Children featured the book’s author Isabel Wilkerson at the organization’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Breakfast on March 9. Proskauer was proud to be among the event underwriters, a collaboration made possible through the Firm’s corporate social responsibility program.

As part of Proskauer’s Women’s History Month celebration, colleagues in the Proskauer Women’s Alliance and the Black Lawyers Affinity Group, among others from Proskauer, had the chance to attend this remarkable event and hear insights from Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, and author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Continue Reading

Patent Diversity Project: Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in the U.S. Patent System

Recent studies show a great disparity in the number of U.S. patents issued to women and people of color. A 2020 report published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) found that, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population, women only represent 12.8% of United States inventor-patentees. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported in 2016 that less than 8% of issued patents named women as the primary inventor. In 2018, researchers at Yale University found after examining the prosecution and maintenance histories of approximately 2.7 million U.S. patent applications that women patent applicants have less favorable outcomes than men – women’s patent applications are more likely to be rejected than those of men, and those rejections are less likely to be appealed. While the gender gap faced by women inventors is decreasing gradually, at the current rate it will take more than 100 years to reach gender parity in the U.S patenting process. Continue Reading

Affirming Identity: Legal Name Changes for Transgender Immigrants

When navigating routine experiences such as applying for jobs, traveling, accessing healthcare, and interacting with government agencies, many of us are able to present our identification documents or write down our legal names without a second thought. But for transgender individuals navigating these same spaces, having to use a legal name that is inconsistent with their gender identity often translates into a heightened risk of discrimination, harassment, and violence. That such a fundamental part of one’s identity — a person’s name — can expose one to bigotry or physical harm is an injustice that is unfortunately far too common in transgender communities.

In fact, in a 2015 survey of transgender Americans, nearly one-third of respondents reported being “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave a location or establishment, or assaulted or attacked” as a result of showing a government-issued ID with a name or gender marker that did not match their gender expression. For many transgender individuals, the opportunity to legally change their legal name not only affirms their identity but also increases their safety. Yet many of those who want legal name changes cannot access them because of the cost and the complications of navigating the court system. Continue Reading

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