The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Judicial Selection Reform Virtual Conference Addresses Court Reform in New York State

Despite the critical importance of a strong and independent judiciary, it’s too often that court reform is ignored by public officials and civic leaders. Earlier this week – at the Conference on Judicial Selection Reform hosted by the Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone – I had the opportunity to use my perspective as Chair of The Fund for Modern Courts to speak on the importance of simplifying New York’s antiquated court system.

The conference began with remarks by Congressman Jerry Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson – who recently issued a report on racism and bias in the state court system. Secretary Johnson referred to the current court structure as “inexplicable,” and described how certain courts, such as the family and criminal courts, are under-resourced and over-burdened. He furthered explained how, in New York, over time there has developed a “second class system of justice for people of color.” Continue Reading

Protecting the Unhoused: Proskauer Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless

In a major victory for unhoused New Yorkers, the New York Court of Appeals recently adopted the analysis of an amicus brief that was filed by Proskauer on behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless. The amicus brief supported the City of New York’s defense of a proposed project to convert a midtown Manhattan hotel into a residential facility for homeless adults seeking employment opportunities. Continue Reading

Caring about Caregivers: Facilitating Adoptions with Mobilization for Justice

Due to COVID-19 court restrictions, there have been no adoption proceedings over the past 14 months in New York City, culminating in a backlog of children in need.  Although these proceedings are not considered to be “emergencies,” the failure to facilitate permanency on such a wide scale, in fact, poses a threat to the health and safety of children.  As courts are beginning to hear these matters again, and given the tremendous unmet need for legal services, Proskauer is partnering with Mobilization for Justice’s Kinship Caregiver Law Project to provide the pro bono legal support needed to help stabilize families. Continue Reading

Proskauer Teams Up with Start Small Think Big to Help Small Businesses

In the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working on pro bono matters ranging from criminal justice to voting rights to veterans’ benefits.  To help address legal challenges and needs amplified by the pandemic, Proskauer has developed a number of new pro bono partnerships and has called upon its lawyers to take on more matters and expand the program’s reach.  Late last month, I took advantage of one such opportunity as I consulted with an entrepreneur who is in the initial stages of starting a business. Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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

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